Julie Payette would have created a “toxic” work climate before Rideau Hall

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Julie Payette would have created a


Humiliation, intimidation, tension: the terms used by former Science Center employees to describe their relationship with Julie Payette are unflattering.

These stories told on Radio-Canada have great similarities with those narrated by members of Rideau Hall recently published. The Governor General’s office denied these allegations, but they nonetheless prompted Ottawa to launch an investigation.

For more than three years, between May 2013 and October 2016, the former astronaut and engineer by training directed this Montreal complex, dedicated to science and technology, which organizes numerous exhibitions open to the general public. The following year, she was appointed Governor General, passing through a background check process led by the government of Justin Trudeau.

Radio-Canada spoke with about ten people, who worked closely with Julie Payette at the Science Center, and who unanimously described a tense work atmosphere. All have requested anonymity so that their testimony does not interfere with their professional activities.

«I’m afraid of reprisals», Slips one of them, saying to want«forget this period of [sa] life“. But, she says, “I want to support the brave people of Rideau Hall». «We have no right not to support them. I want to confirm what they say», She specifies.

There was a “toxic climate caused by unwarranted criticism and reprimand», Explains a former employee of the establishment. “It was a climate of terror that reigned during the years she was there», Says a source.

Another person agrees. “I was intimidated. She screamed, she screamed, she called people incompetent», She proclaims.

Several resignations were also directly caused by the behavior of Julie Payette, say witnesses.


Julie Payette took office as Governor General of Canada on October 2, 2017.


© Sean Kilpatrick / The Canadian Press
Julie Payette took office as Governor General of Canada on October 2, 2017.

crying fits»After meetings

From the outset, most recognize “l’intelligenceFrom the former astronaut. “She is an extremely bright, cultured woman who has ideas, but she does not know how to convey them. She’s not a leader, not a manager“, Summarizes a former employee, before specifying that some could be done”demolish“By their director”in front of colleagues».

«She wanted to promote science education. A priori, [sa nomination] was a great choice. But he’s someone oddly enough who is quite asocial, who doesn’t like people, who criticized his staff a lot.», Says a former employee.

«People were shaking before they went to a meeting with her. We could get picked upAdds another source. “We wondered who was going to be his target“Confirms one person, adding that some felt”hurt and hurt in their self-esteem». «People ended up crying with rage and humiliation», She continues, saying that she herself experienced these emotions.

«There were bouts of crying, says a former employee. She was making really harsh criticisms of the job, but not in a constructive way». «We were criticized, questioned», Adds a former employee.

One source defines it as a “very great manipulator” and an “viper“, With an attitude that”kill any initiative“. Another judge than Julie Payette “sowed discord». «She didn’t bring us together, she divided us», She recalls, speaking of a boss with«a big ego“, Who worked for”Julie Payette inc“. A term taken up by another witness.

Like what was described at Rideau Hall, a source says that Julie Payette liked to do “science-based quiz about space”, Asking for example the distance between the planets or the composition of the air. If the person was wrong, a remark was made. “It was quite humiliating to have this question in front of others in a meeting. She said it with a smile, but it was hurtful“, She narrates, speaking of a”quite unpredictable person».

«One day it was fine, one day it was not right at all. We were bad, to shit», She reports.


An engineer by training, Julie Payette carried out two missions in space, in 1999, then in 2009.


© Scott Audette/Reuters
An engineer by training, Julie Payette carried out two missions in space, in 1999, then in 2009.

A woman “extremely demanding»

A witness at the time, however, wishes to recall that Julie Payette lived a mandate at the Science Center disturbed by a strike lasting several months, aimed in particular at an increase in wages.

«She is an extremely demanding woman. She demands from others what she demands for herself, she adds. When she saw the obvious, she didn’t put on velvet gloves to tell you it wasn’t working. But she didn’t call people fools either. He is a person who is cards on the table, goes straight to the point and does not go through four paths.»

«He is a person with superior intelligence, who is intense and demanding», Assures another person, also passed by the Science Center, while specifying not to be«surprisedBy the testimonies of Rideau Hall employees.

«There was surely a requirement, it was very rigorous, controlling. But it goes beyond the requirement“, Adds a source, speaking of”intimidation».

«People were terrified of presenting a project. It was crazy. We had meetings to see what to say, how to say it to avoid crises“, She continues, affirming that Julie Payette was capable”crisis of a four year old child“, With”anger“And”really harsh lyrics».

«She wants to control everything, things, people», Deplores a source, speaking of«a kind of psychological blackmail».

She “strives for excellence», Answers his team

According to sources, the human resources of the Société du Vieux-Port de Montréal have been informed of this situation. Have actions been taken? Radio-Canada’s questions were sent directly to the Canada Lands Company (CLC), which oversees this scientific institution.

She refused to discuss “personnel matters“, for reasons of “confidentiality“. These stories were however “known and knownBy the administration, according to former employees.

Former boss of the Société du Vieux-Port, Daniel Dorey remembers a “colleague“With”a very different style from [sien]“, Which maintained”strained relationships at times».

«There were altercations“, He admits, while stressing that”every person who is in the business world is in tense situations».

Julie Payette has resigned from the Science Center in October 2016. “It was a personal decision of Madame Payette», Answers Manon Lapenseée, vice-president of the SIC.

Less than a year later, Julie Payette was appointed Governor General of Canada, at the suggestion of Justin Trudeau. We asked the Prime Minister’s Office if it was aware of this work climate prior to this appointment. The latter did not respond to Radio-Canada.

In 2017, Justin Trudeau himself claimed that this verification process was “deep and rigorous».

For its part, Julie Payette’s team rejected these new allegations, mentioning, in an email, in English, that the latter “strives for excellence», Whether for herself or those around her.

The latter, however, did not wish to answer “to anonymous sources, rumors and innuendos“, While specifying”much appreciate“Her work alongside the Governor General, whose”devotion“And”strong work ethic».

With the collaboration of Daniel Boily and Eve Caron

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