Trudeau says government will look at vetting process for governor general after Payette resignation

By Ian Burns

Law360 Canada (January 22, 2021, 2:09 PM EST) -- Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has pledged to look at the vetting process for Canada’s governor general after Julie Payette resigned from the position amidst accusations of a toxic workplace at Rideau Hall during her tenure.

Payette stepped down from the vice-regal post Jan. 21 after an outside workplace review revealed allegations of harassment and bullying by both the former astronaut and her secretary. Chief Justice Richard Wagner will serve in an interim capacity until a permanent replacement is named.

 Prime Minister Justin Trudeau

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau

In a statement, Payette said it “has been an honour and a privilege” to serve as governor general and that she was “sorry” for the tensions which have arisen at Rideau Hall over the past few months.

“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,” she said. “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.”

Trudeau said at his Jan. 22 press conference the government was looking at ways to improve the process for vice-regal appointments but was noncommittal when asked if he would return to the system put in place by former Prime Minister Stephen Harper, which involved a committee vetting candidates and then sending names to the Prime Minister’s Office.

“As a government we have demonstrated time and time again how important it is to create workplaces which are safe and free from harassment and in which people can do their important jobs in safety and security,” he said. “That is why we moved forward on significant measures for Parliament and the public service and why we consider that we needed to accept the resignation of Julie Payette, given the concerns which were raised.”

When discussing the COVID-19 pandemic, Trudeau also hinted that new measures targeting Canadians who travel outside the country could be forthcoming.

“We have been very clear that people should not be planning non-essential travel or vacation travel outside the country,” he said. “Last night I had a long conversation with the premiers about a number of different options we could possibly exercise to further limit travel and keep Canadians safe and we will have more to say on that in the coming days. But the bottom line is this — this is not the time to travel, either internationally or even across the country.”

Trudeau also said he had spoken to the CEO of global pharmaceutical giant Pfizer about the slowdown of vaccine deliveries to Canada. He said “hundreds of thousands” of doses of the Pfizer BioNTech vaccine would start to be delivered the week of Feb. 15 and Canada would receive four million doses by March 31.

“The current momentary delay is so they can increase their production overall going forward,” he said. “We are working round the clock to get as many vaccines as we can as fast as we can — it is what I am thinking about when I get up in the morning, when I go to bed and every hour in between.”

Trudeau confirmed approximately 500,000 doses of the Moderna vaccine would come to Canada next month and promised to dispatch two mobile hospital units with a combined 200 beds to the Greater Toronto Area (GTA) to help alleviate the strain on medical facilities in the area.

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