Payette’s departure a black mark on rubber-stamp process

The ink still hasn’t dried on now-ex Governor General Julie Payette’s departure from her post in disgrace late last week, in the wake of a damning report that found her and her top aide responsible for workplace harassment at Rideau Hall.
Claims emerged earlier this week that there may have been multiple instances of physical contact between Payette and staff members, while her executive assistant has reportedly retained the counsel of famed trial lawyer Marie Henein.
When PM Trudeau won his first election as leader of his party, he ran on a feminist platform. He was going to improve things for women.
Appointing Julie Payette is a part of that agenda. She is eminently qualified for the position.
These allegations, true or not, are nevertheless distracting from the GG’s role.
It would be difficult to predict precisely what would happen; however, I see several potential scenarios.
Nothing happens, and this is forgotten about. Apologies are issued, corrective measures taken, improvements made, and life moves on. Or she simply resigns and nothing else is done.
Social parameters bind the way people behave towards each other – some legislated for, others down to our own personal moral compasses. We are also motivated by various biases and various ego defence mechanisms, even if we are not aware of ourselves.
Human behaviour and development are relatively well understood, yet, as a society, we tend to focus on individual cases of harassment rather than ever address harassment itself – the reasons why it is so prevalent in society.
If we are tackling workplace bullying, we need to introduce a zero-tolerance approach to it. We would ensure that all staff received regular supervision, allowing people to discuss their work role, their place in the work environment and whether we need to support them through any challenges they might be having.
It’s essential to meet with people privately, as harassment is subjective – what one person is prepared to tolerate may be devastating for someone else.
There are always good reasons to spend time supporting employees, especially the fact that having a strong and confident team can increase productivity. But in GG Payette’s case, she failed to handle this issue.
Within the workplace, we follow hierarchical structures, not dissimilar to the military. Instead of corporals, sergeants and captains, we have team leaders, supervisors and regional managers.
Have you noticed how authoritative it can make certain people when they’re given power over others?
That’s because we behave in predictable ways around authority – ours and other peoples. Did not write anything saying that we must obey – we behave the way we do around it because we were taught to respond to it when we were young.
We are sovereign, self-obsessed creatures, bouncing about on a rock, on the Orion arm of the Milky Way galaxy, twenty-five thousand light-years from its centre – we’ve gone through so much getting here to be dominated by someone else’s language, or it’s power of the position.
But as we live in 2021, no one has the right to abuse and disrespect each other here in Canada. Playing with people’s lives, their sense of who they are, their mental health – it can all be destroyed by a tormenting boss.
These allegations are rampant, and given a dropped charge of assault from Payette’s past, and they seem very believable.
Workers deserve the chance to work in a non-toxic environment, and Canada deserves the opportunity to avoid a Trump-like bully as the person who signs our bills into law.
Payette’s actions as our Governor General are a distraction from her public duties, and is not a good look for the Queen’s representative here.
Payette has an outstanding career as an astronaut. But it does sound like her interpersonal skills have some serious flaws. She should acknowledge this in advance and change to a more reconciled approach with employees.
As a Queen’s representative, she had failed in her actual responsibilities to consider her decision’s constitutionality.
If governors general are smiling figureheads who are remarkably restrained by precedent and outsource all decision-making power to their expert handlers, it does not matter who the Governor General is, as long they do not abuse its power and the position.

About the author

Asia Metro Editor

Surjit Singh Flora

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