CBC News has learned that the 11-member Order of Canada Advisory Council chaired by Chief Justice Richard Wagner – who served as Governor General for six months after Payette’s resignation – is considering terminating the appointment of Payette to the Order of Canada. Only seven people have been expelled from the Order of Canada in its more than 50-year history – and no one has ever been expelled from the Order due to harassment allegations – says Rideau Hall.
“Never has a Governor General been deprived of an honor. It’s that simple, ”said Michael Jackson, president of the Institute for the Study of the Crown in Canada at Massey College in Toronto. “There is a long process and due process has to take place. If that happens, it will be absolutely unprecedented. “
Rideau Hall received a request to remove Payette from the Order of Canada from a member of the public shortly after Payette resigned six months ago. The complaint came after an external review found Payette had presided over a “toxic” and “toxic” workplace that caused many employees to leave Rideau Hall or take sick leave.
Rideau Hall: “… the process is ongoing”
Vancouver welder and public sector employee Giovanni Cormano told CBC News he has filed the request to remove Payette from the Order of Canada. In his letter to Rideau Hall, he writes that “Julie Payette has undermined the Order of Canada and what it stands for.”
“For her, retaining this honor would tarnish the accomplishments of Tommy Douglas, Margaret Atwood, Terry Fox, Kim Campbell, Leonard Cohen and Rick Hansen, to name a few,” Cormano wrote in his letter dated Jan. 31. obtained by CBC News. .
Cormano did not work for Payette, but argued in his letter that his alleged tendency to mistreat staff at Rideau Hall, the Montreal Science Center and the Canadian Olympic Committee undermines the credibility of the honor.
Citing confidentiality rules, Rideau Hall will not say whether he has received any further formal requests to eject Payette from the Order of Canada.
According to the regulations, the Order of Canada is a gift from the Crown and can be revoked if an individual is convicted of a criminal offense or engages in conduct that “constitutes a significant departure from the norms of generally public behavior. recognized which are considered to compromise the credibility, integrity or relevance of the order, or undermine the original grounds on which the appointment was based. “
Any Canadian can apply to remove someone from the Order of Canada. If the Honorary Undersecretary at Rideau Hall concludes that there may be reasonable grounds to revoke the honor, the complaint is sent to the Advisory Board, which makes a recommendation to the Governor General. The process can take over a year.
The Governor General’s office told Cormano it was taking his request seriously, according to an email seen by CBC News.
“The reputation of the Canadian Honors System is at the heart of our mandate,” said the retired Brigadier-General. Marc Thériault, Honorary Under-Secretary, said in an email to Cormano on June 4.
“I confirm that the process is ongoing (…) The examination of your request may take several months (…) you will be informed in writing if your request is rejected at any stage of the procedure. “
Julie Payette was named an Officer of the Order of Canada in 2010 for being an “inspirational and remarkable international ambassador of Canadian engineering,” according to the Rideau Hall website. As an astronaut, Payette spent more than 611 hours in space and was the first Canadian to board the International Space Station.
In 2017, the Queen appointed Payette Extraordinary Companion of the Order of Canada in recognition of her appointment as Governor General.
The Queen released Payette from her vice-regal role on January 22 in response to a request from Prime Minister Justin Trudeau.
When asked to comment on the request to remove her from the Order of Canada, a spokesperson for Payette declined to comment.
“Right now, she is focusing on personal issues and applauding Canadian athletes at the Tokyo Olympics,” wrote Lise Boyer, agent at JP Communications. “The appointment of Mary Simon as GG should also rightly be at the forefront of public attention and Madame Payette does not wish to disrupt that. “
A form of “vindictive” return?
Some constitutional scholars argue that removing Payette from the Order of Canada would be exaggerating.
Barbara Messamore, who criticized Payette’s mistreatment of staff, said it was “undeniable” that Payette had “already paid a high price”. She acknowledged that some might disagree, since Payette receives an estimated annuity of $ 149,484 per year for life after leaving office.
“His reputation has really suffered,” said Messamore, member and vice-president of the Institute for the Study of the Crown in Canada. “I don’t think we need to take the next step of being vindictive, of looking for every possible way to punish her for her conduct. “
She said Payette always deserved to be recognized for her work as an astronaut.
Philippe Lagassé of Carleton University, who studies the Westminster system at Carleton University, said Payette’s removal from the Order of Canada would be “excessive”.
“She was not fired,” he said. “She retired from the post. She agreed to resign in the face of allegations of workplace harassment. She has already had to deal with the consequences of this. “
Lagassé said the allegations against Payette had not been proven in court. The external review attempted not to draw any factual conclusions but rather to determine the extent of the problem.
Confidential termination process, according to Rideau Hall
Rideau Hall declined to comment on the matter to CBC News, saying the termination process is confidential.
Rideau Hall spokeswoman Lynne Santerre said in a statement to media that the advisory board’s decisions are based on evidence that “may include, but is not limited to, a criminal conviction or sanction by an agency. professional “.
“The removal of all honors is an extraordinary measure that serves to protect the credibility of the Canadian honors system,” she wrote.
Some Order of Canada recipients have been deprived of this honor due to criminal convictions – which included fraud, assault with a weapon and obstruction of justice – according to Christopher McCreery’s book The Order of Canada. Other appointments were terminated for professional misconduct, such as anti-Semitic comments or prohibition from practicing law, he wrote.
“There has been a reluctance to take the honors away from those who have suffered personally or who have made contributions so significant that their crimes are petty in comparison,” McCreery wrote.
If the advisory board decides there might be reasonable grounds for termination, Payette would be notified and given an opportunity to provide a written response.
If the case comes to the end of the long process, the board would make a recommendation to Governor General Mary Simon on whether to end Payette’s appointment to the Order.
Simon already knows the revocation process. She served on the advisory board in 2014 – the year it recommended the expulsion of former media baron Conrad Black from the Order of Canada.
Black had been convicted of fraud and obstruction of justice in the United States seven years earlier. McCreery wrote that the advisory board had waited until Black exhausted his appeal options.