OTTAWA — Julie Payette’s resignation as governor general was prompted by a scathing review of the work environment she presided over at Rideau Hall, described by dozens of people as hostile, toxic, or poisoned.
The government released the findings of the independent review conducted by Quintet Consulting Corp. on Wednesday evening.
The report is heavily redacted, primarily to protect participants’ privacy, and whole pages of details are blacked out or removed.
Still, the report says Quintet heard allegations of “yelling, screaming, aggressive conduct, demeaning comments and public humiliation” — behaviour that was “repeated and persistent.”
Representative descriptions of the work environment at Rideau Hall included phrases such as “the definition of a poisoned work environment,” “humiliation,” “disrespect” and “condescension,” the report says.
If the alleged conduct occurred as described, the report says “by any objective standard,” it would “lead to a toxic workplace.”
“Quintet concludes that there is a serious problem that requires PCO (Privy Council Office) immediate attention.”
Payette resigned last Thursday, one week after the government received the report from Quintet. It was commissioned by the Privy Council Office to look into CBC reports that Payette and her secretary, Assunta Di Lorenzo, had presided over a toxic workplace. Di Lorenzo also resigned.
Quintet interviewed 92 current and former employees and “knowledgeable individuals” who had worked with Rideau Hall during Payette’s tenure.
“Fewer than 10 participants … reported only positive or neutral information about the work environment,” the report says.
“However, the overwhelming majority of participants described experiences that would objectively be considered ‘concerns and allegations,’” the report says.
Specifically, 43 participants “described the general work environment as hostile, negative or other words to that effect.”
Twenty-six “specifically used the words ‘toxic’ or ‘poisoned.’” Eight “used the expressions climate/reign of fear/terror and 12 participants said they were ‘walking on eggshells.’” the report says.
As well, 20 participants “reported having witnessed harassment in their workplace or referred to harassing behaviours in the workplace.”
Seventeen participants reported that they left their jobs during Payette’s tenure because of the work environment — at least 16 in less than a year. Another 13 reported taking sick leave.
Still, Quintet says it received only one formal complaint about harassment, which was unrelated to the issue it was hired to investigate.
The review did not make any findings of fact or determine whether the reported conduct actually took place. However, the report notes that there was “considerable overlap and consistency” to the allegations made by participants.
It says employees did not feel they had a place to go with their complaints, that human resources practices at Rideau Hall were inadequate. Staff had reported problems to management but “little or no change resulted.”
Payette has admitted to no specific wrongdoing. She said in a statement last week that she was resigning for the good of the institution.
This report by The Canadian Press was first published Jan. 27, 2021.
Joan Bryden and Jim Bronskill, The Canadian Press