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Payette praises staff in new memo

With a Privy Council investigation into allegations of bullying and harassment looming at Rideau Hall , Gov. Gen. Julie Payette today told her staff in a memo that she’s listening to their concerns and called on them to “stay united.”

CBC News has obtained a copy of an internal memo sent to all staff today. It’s believed to be the first time Payette has commented on the harassment claims directly to employees.

“The past week has been a trying one for our office and like all of you, I am affected by what we hear,” wrote Payette. “When faced with problems, it is imperative to stay united and work together to find solutions. I am listening and I remain fully committed to our team and our mission.”

A profile in the National Post says there were similar allegations of an abrasive management style by Payette When she headed the Science Museum in Montreal. The Post quotes former colleagues of Payette saying they were not surprised to learn that there are similar allegations against the former astronaut now that she is Governor-General.

The review follows a CBC News report last Tuesday that cited a dozen unnamed sources saying Payette has created a toxic work environment and a culture of fear at Rideau Hall — to the point where some staffers have been reduced to tears, have gone on leaves of absence or have left the office altogether. Staffers described a climate where at staff meetings some one member of staff would be singled out for a dressing down.

“Rest assured that I take workplace harassment very seriously and fully support the review of our practices and the continuation of concrete actions to ensure a healthy and safe work environment for everyone, at all times and in all circumstances,” Payette told staff in the memo.

Sixteen sources with direct knowledge of the alleged harassment have told CBC News that Payette has yelled at, belittled and publicly humiliated employees. They accuse her of throwing tantrums over the quality of staff work and accusing staffers of incompetence. Her longtime friend and second-in-command, Assunta Di Lorenzo, is also accused of bullying staff, yelling at them and calling them “lazy” and “incompetent.” Former staff at the Montreal Science Museum say Payette is brilliant at public speaking and fundraising, but lacks management skills.

A government survey backs up the claims at Rideau Hall. As reported by Macleans, the 2019 survey said the office has the third highest harassment levels in the federal public service. Twenty-two per cent of respondents working for Rideau Hall claimed to have experienced harassment and 74 per cent of them attributed it to individuals with authority over them.

This week, Brigitte Carbonneau, a former manager from Cirque du Soleil, joined Rideau Hall as its new chief of staff and special adviser to Payette.

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