Rideau Hall hires former Supreme Court justice as adviser during outside probe of ‘toxic workplace’ claims

The Governor General of Canada has hired former Supreme Court of Canada justice Michel Bastarache as a “constitutional adviser” following multiple reports alleging the work climate at Rideau Hall has become toxic, Radio-Canada has learned.

The Privy Council Office launched an unprecedented third-party review in July in response to a CBC News report featuring a dozen public servants and former employees confidentially claiming Gov. Gen. Julie Payette belittled, berated and publicly humiliated Rideau Hall staff.

Bastarache, who served on the Supreme Court of Canada from Sept. 30, 1997 to July 1, 2008, has been tasked with safeguarding the interests of the institution of the Governor General of Canada while the review is taking place.

“My mandate is to ensure that the independence and integrity of the institution are not adversely affected by the process created by the Privy Council,” he told Radio-Canada in French.

Bastarache said he will be there to ensure that the review does not violate the constitutional protections enjoyed by Payette, and to prevent her from becoming personally involved in the process.

Asked to comment, the Governor General’s office said the services of the former judge were retained by the institution to ensure the independence and integrity of the role of Governor General from a constitutional point of view.

About twenty sources told CBC that a toxic climate prevailed at Rideau Hall.

Staff members have taken leaves of absence, or have left Rideau Hall altogether, because of the bullying, CBC reported last month. Payette’s long-time friend and second-in-command Assunta Di Lorenzo is also accused of mistreating staff.

Privy Council orders review

Quintet Consulting, a private Ottawa company specializing in workplace conflict management, sent some Rideau Hall employees an email last month asking them to respond by Oct. 5 if they want to take part in the voluntary review process.

Separately, the Office of the Secretary to the Governor General will be working with the law firm Blakes to support the secretary’s office in the process.

Quintet Consulting’s report should be completed this fall and will be submitted to Dominic Leblanc, president of the Privy Council and minister of Intergovernmental Affairs. Its content will not be made fully public.

Payette has said she takes harassment issues in the workplace very seriously. On Twitter, she indicated that she had requested this independent review, while the Privy Council Office said it had requested it itself.

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Johny Watshon

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