Chief Justice Will Fill In for Payette Until Permanent Replacement Is Found

January 22, 2021 Updated: January 25, 2021

As Gov.-Gen. Julie Payette announces her resignation following a blistering report on the work environment at Rideau Hall, Chief Justice Richard Wagner will take on the duties of the governor general for the time being.

An independent consulting firm was hired by the Privy Council Office last year to investigate reports of workplace harassment and bullying by Payette of staff at Rideau Hall.

On Jan. 21, Payette apologized for the “tensions” at Rideau Hall in recent months, and announced her resignation. Payette’s secretary, Assunta di Lorenzo, will also leave her position.

“I am a strong believer in the principles of natural justice, due process and the rule of law, and that these principles apply to all equally,” Payette said in a statement.

“Notwithstanding, in respect for the integrity of my vice-regal Office and for the good of our country and of our democratic institutions, I have come to the conclusion that a new Governor General should be appointed. Canadians deserve stability in these uncertain times.”

Prime Minister Justine Trudeau said in a statement that Payette’s resignation “provides an opportunity for new leadership at Rideau Hall to address the workplace concerns raised by employees during the review.”

“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,” he said.

Trudeau said Wagner will be fulfilling the duties of the position on an interim basis and that “a replacement will be provided to Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II and announced in due course.”

Intergovernmental Affairs Minister Dominic LeBlanc said Payette’s resignation shows a need to strengthen the process for vetting vice-regal appointments.

“Obviously, this circumstance is far from ideal,’” LeBlanc said in an interview shortly after Payette announced her resignation.

“There always has been a process of vetting, of checks that are made when somebody is appointed to any government position. But clearly, the process can be strengthened, can be improved.”

While Wagner will take on governor general duties in the interim, LeBlanc said the government intends to quickly find a successor for Payette.

During a press conference on Jan. 22, Trudeau did not answer directly when asked if he owes an apology to the staff members who suffered while working at Rideau Hall, as well as to Canadians for not using a committee to select Payette as governor general.

“For all high-level appointments there is a rigorous vetting process that was followed in this case,” he said. “Obviously we will continue to look into that vetting process to ensure that it is the best possible process as we move forward.”

Trudeau did not say whether a committee will be involved in choosing Payette’s successor.

When asked if he regretted appointing Payette, he answered, “I think that Ms. Payette, with her emphasis on science and service, brought a great deal of positive aspects to her job.”

Buckingham Palace said in a short statement that “the Queen has been kept informed of developments.”

With files from The Canadian Press