Former Canadian astronaut Julie Payette, the country’s governor general since 2017, announced she would step down on Thursday after she was accused by current and former employees of creating a “toxic” workplace environment, CNN reports.
The governor general is the Queen’s representative in Commonwealth countries with a largely ceremonial job such as swearing in governments and formally signing legislation, but can on rare occasions be asked to settle constitutional questions.
In her resignation statement, Payette said that she took the allegations seriously although she did not formally apologise or admit to any misconduct.
The Canadian Broadcasting Corporation (CBC) last year reported employees accusing Payette of harassing and bullying them and reducing some to tears.
As a result, the Canadian government hired an independent consultant to investigate and their report prompted Payette’s resignation this week.
This is an embarrassment for Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, having recommended her for the post, says Reuters.
He released his own brief statement on Thursday, saying he had received Payette’s resignation. He did not thank her for her service.
Trudeau said Canada’s chief justice will carry out the duties of governor until he makes a recommendation on a replacement to Queen Elizabeth.
Had Payette not agreed to resign, dismissing her could have triggered a constitutional crisis in Canada, and would have mandated more formal involvement by the Queen.
In 2017, when he recommended Payette to the Queen, Trudeau said she was “unquestionably qualified for this high office”.
But Canada’s opposition leader, Erin O’Toole, accused the prime minister’s office of not vetting Payette thoroughly enough for the job. He said all political parties should now have a say in who replaces her.
“The Governor General is the Commander in Chief of our Armed Forces and has an important constitutional role,” O’Toole said in a statement to CNN. “Considering the problems with his last appointment, the Prime Minister should consult opposition parties.”
Trudeau is an avowed feminist, and officials said at the time that the appointment would advance the cause of women.
Potential candidates for the job are supposed to be vetted by a special committee, a step Trudeau chose to ignore.
Don Davies, a legislator for the opposition, said, “The colossal failure of Payette’s term falls squarely on his shoulders.”