Rideau Hall receives formal harassment complaint in wake of report detailing bullying by former GG

Rideau Hall has received a formal harassment complaint days after the federal government publicly released a report into the toxic workplace culture at the institution that led to the resignation of former governor general Julie Payette and her secretary.

Julie Payette resigned as Governor General following blistering workplace review

Julie Payette resigned as Governor General following an independent workplace review that found a serious issue at Rideau Hall that required immediate action. (Adrian Wyld/Canadian Press)

Rideau Hall has received a formal harassment complaint days after the federal government publicly released a report into the toxic workplace culture at the institution that led to the resignation of former governor general Julie Payette and her secretary. 

That heavily-redacted report by Quintet Consulting reviewed claims Payette and her former secretary, Assunta Di Lorenzo, created a toxic work environment. The report found alleged incidents of harassment and bullying that prompted some employees to leave their jobs at Rideau Hall while more than a dozen others went on sick leave. 

Quintet Consulting's report identified this specific harassment complaint during its review of Rideau Hall, but because it "fell outside the anticipated scope of the review," forwarded it on to the Privy Council Office (PCO) to deal with. 

The PCO has now forwarded the complaint to Rideau Hall. 

The Governor General's office confirmed to CBC News it received the complaint Monday "as a result of the workplace review," but said it cannot reveal the details. The office said it is now conducting a "thorough review" to take "appropriate action" based on its harassment and violence directive. 

"The details of harassment complaints are considered confidential and contain personal information, therefore the Office of the Secretary to the Governor General will not be providing any information on the specific complaint it has received" said Rideau Hall spokesperson Yan Michaud in an email to CBC News.

"Every employee in the government of Canada has the right to work in a safe and healthy environment, and the government of Canada will always take this very seriously," wrote PCO spokesperson Pierre-Alain Bujold in a statement to CBC news. 

"The Privy Council Office and the government are committed to establishing a healthy workplace at the OSGG."

Payette resigned her position Jan. 21 after receiving a copy of the report and meeting with the prime minister. Payette's longtime friend and former secretary, Di Lorenzo, also resigned that same day. 

'Yelling, screaming, aggressive conduct,' reported 

Quintet Consulting's report details allegations of "yelling, screaming, aggressive conduct, demeaning comments and public humiliations." More than 90 people were interviewed and dozens called the workplace "hostile or negative," others used the words "toxic" or "poisoned;" a few described the situation as a "climate of fear" or "reign of terror." 

The report said 13 interview participants reported they took sick leave during Payette's tenure because of the work environment. Another 17 said they left their jobs at the institution because of the hostile environment created by Payette. 

According to the report, there was so much distrust and fear, that Rideau Hall employees said they had no way to express their concerns. They said HR practices at the institution were inadequate and they had no way to report the "really unhealthy" environment other than to speak to the media.

Former Rideau Hall employees told CBC News that staff complained to human resources, managers, the ombudsman and union representatives at the office, but said staff member's concerns went nowhere. Quintet Consulting concluded "there is a serious problem that requires PCO's immediate attention." 

PCO triggered the third-party workplace review two days after a CBC News story in July quoted a dozen former employees and current public servants claiming that Payette yelled at staff, publicly demeaned them and reduced them to tears. They also accused Di Lorenzo of bullying staff.

Watch: Report into Julie Payette's conduct finds toxic workplace, public humiliations:

Report into Julie Payette's conduct finds toxic workplace, public humiliations

1 year ago
Duration 7:30
An independent report examining the workplace culture at the office of former governor general Julie Payette details allegations of 'aggressive conduct, demeaning comments and public humiliations.' John Fraser of the Institute for the Study of the Crown in Canada says the allegations coming out of Rideau Hall are 'a tragedy' for the country.

No formal complaints during my tenure: Payette

For the past six months, Payette has maintained that she takes workplace harassment issues very seriously and pointed to the fact there hadn't been a formal complaint filed while she served as Governor General.

"While no formal complaints or official grievances were made during my tenure, which would have immediately triggered a detailed investigation as prescribed by law and the collective agreements in place, I still take these allegations very seriously," wrote Payette on the day of her resignation.

CBC News has also reported that complainants who took part in the independent review allege that Payette's verbal harassment of staff crossed over into instances of unwelcome physical contact that caused some participants in the review to report they felt threatened. 

The independent report's goal was to determine the scope of the problem. The authors of the report did not attempt to make findings of fact; the report relies on what interview participants reported.

Payette has since only taken responsibility for "tensions" that arose at Rideau Hall. 

"Everyone has a right to a healthy and safe work environment, at all times and under all circumstances. It appears this was not always the case at the office of the secretary to the Governor General. Tensions have arisen at Rideau Hall over the past few months and for that, I am sorry," wrote Payette in a statement on Jan. 21.

"We all experience things differently, but we should always strive to do better, and be attentive to one another's perceptions ... in respect for the integrity of my vice-regal office and for the good of our country and of our democratic institutions, I have come to the conclusion that a new Governor General should be appointed."



Ashley Burke


Ashley Burke is a senior reporter with CBC's Parliamentary Bureau. Have a story idea? Email her at ashley.burke@cbc.ca

With files from Peter Zimonjic & Ryan Patrick Jones


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