Ottawa – The high-profile but largely ceremonial figure who represented Queen Elizabeth as the official head of state of Canada, resigned Thursday after a report presented to the government sharply criticized its treatment of employees.
Julie Payette, whose title was Governor-General, has resigned after months of media reports that she and a senior adviser had belittled staff and publicly insulted, often to the point of crying. In response, the government requested an independent review that several Canadian media outlets have said they blamed for creating a toxic work environment.
“In the interest of our country and our democratic institutions, I have reached the conclusion that a new Governor-General should be appointed,” Ms. Payet said in a statement issued late Thursday.
Ms Payette, a former astronaut, has been said in some news reports that she has questioned employees about the distance between celestial bodies. Several employees quit her office or go on extended vacations.
Ms. Payette’s duties included signing all Canadian legislation to becoming law and serving as Commander in Chief of the Armed Forces. A two-time space shuttle crew member, former electrical engineer and accomplished soprano choir, she attracted an extraordinary amount of attention during her three-year tenure.
But few were positive.
The criticism of Ms. Payette went beyond how she treated employees. Questions were raised early on about Ms. Payette’s interest in the job, given her frequent absence from her official duties and the capital, Ottawa.
She was also blamed for using an apolitical stance to deliver a speech at a scientific conference at which she appeared to be challenging Validity of religious belief. Like many government officials in Canada, she has at times been criticized for her use of public funds.
“It looks like it was inappropriate from the start,” said Barbara Misamore, a professor of history at Fraser Valley University in British Columbia. Resigning was a good thing. It would have been better if it happened a few months ago. “
Robert Bothwell, professor of Canadian history at the University of Toronto, said that no Governor-General has resigned from office since Canada came together through its union in 1867.
Until 1952, the Governor-General was dispatched from Britain and included Lord Stanley, who donated the first trophy still presented in his name to the National Hockey League champion, and John Buchan, 1st Baron Twidsmoyer and novelist best known for “The 39 Steps.”
Since then, the Prime Minister, who is the political head of government, has chosen the Governor-General who was formally appointed by the reigning British monarch.
Cabinet Member Dominic LeBlanc said that Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and Ms. Payette discussed the report on Wednesday evening.
“This report had some disturbing conclusions,” Mr. LeBlanc told the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation. “These talks led to the Governor-General’s conclusion that she must submit her resignation.”
Ms. Payet’s resignation comes at a time when the job could affect the political realm.
Mr. Trudeau does not have the majority of votes in the House of Commons. If his government is defeated on an issue of confidence, such as the budget, by tradition, he will have to go to the governor-general and demand the dissolution of Parliament and call for elections.
An opposition party could apply and ask for permission to form a government, although such a move would be unusual.
Richard Wagner, chief justice of the Supreme Court, will temporarily take over the functions of governor general.
To avoid the turbulent constitutional possibility that the country’s chief justice will act on political request, Mr Trudeau should choose someone else to fill the role temporarily while looking for a long-term replacement, said Peter Donolo, who served as communications director for former prime minister Jean Chretien.
Mr. Donolo criticized Mr. Trudeau, a fellow liberal, for allowing the situation to get out of control and for insufficient examination of Ms. Payette in advance.
“What a catastrophe they allowed this to fester for a long time,” he said.