TORONTO (AP) — Canada’s governor general resigned Thursday following an independent review of workplace harassment allegations.
The governor general is the representative of Britain’s Queen Elizabeth II as head of state, and holds a mostly ceremonial and symbolic position.
Julie Payette said in a statement she came to the conclusion that a new governor general should be appointed.
“We all experience things differently,” Payette said.
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau appointed Payette, a former astronaut, to the role in 2017.
His office hired an independent consulting firm last September to investigate after the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation reported on a toxic work place environment.
The CBC reports alleged that Payette belittled and publicly humiliated employees, reducing some to tears or prompting them to quit.
Assunta di Lorenzo, Secretary to the Governor General and her top aide, also resigned.
“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,” Payette said.
“Tensions have arisen at Rideau Hall over the past few months and for that, I am sorry,”
The governor general is a non-partisan role and has constitutional duties that include swearing in the prime minister, Cabinet ministers and the chief justice of Canada. The governor general is also the commander-in-chief and gives royal assent to Canadian laws.
Queen Elizabeth II is head of state in Canada, a member of the British Commonwealth of former colonies, though Canadians are mostly indifferent to the monarchy and the governor general.
Shortly after Payette was appointed, it emerged that she’d been charged with second-degree assault while living in Maryland in 2011. She called the charged unfounded, and it has since been expunged. She was also involved in a fatal hit-and-run accident that same year. The case was closed without charges after a police investigation.
The incidents raised questions about how thoroughly she had been vetted for the job.
Trudeau said the Chief Justice of Canada will be fulfilling the duties of the Governor General in the interim.
“Every employee in the Government of Canada has the right to work in a safe and healthy environment, and we will always take this very seriously,” Trudeau said in a statement.
Nelson Wiseman, a political science professor at the University of Toronto, said he was fairly certain that no governor general has resigned in the past.
“Julie Payette ought to have resigned months ago when so many negative media reports appeared about her behavior,” Wiseman said. “I don’t think this affair will hurt Trudeau politically but it does embarrass him because he chose her. My feeling has always been that it is best to choose a Governor General who is not a celebrity, but the Liberals cannot help themselves.”
New U.S. President Joe Biden said this week that if any of his appointees treat a colleague with disrespect, he will fire them “on the spot.” He said that mindset had been missing in President Donald Trump’s White House.