Editorial: Julie Payette deserves more respect

Posted: 2021-01-22 09:36:06 By: thebay

A few news reports with a slanted view about a report they read and suddenly the unwashed, uninformed masses are out in force.

Apparently, former Governor General Julie Payette was a bit tough to work for. As was her secretary and long-time friend Assunta di Lorenzo. They allegedly created a “toxic work environment.” Personally, I’ll pass my judgement when I get access to the full report.

Using terms like “an embarrassment to Canada,” “so glad she’s gone,” “never really liked her,” the masses are celebrating the resignation of Payette.

But I’m not. I’m sad that she is being pushed out so easily. I’m sad that she wasn’t given – or maybe didn’t want – an opportunity to grow.

I’m also sad that a bunch of people have such little regard for one of the great Canadians of our time.

Political differences aside, Payette has been a beacon of individual excellence while representing Canada in a tremendous fashion throughout her lifetime. Her accomplishments should be lauded and respected by all.

Oh, you just woke up to all this Governor General news and have no clue who Payette really is. Well, let me share a few of her accomplishments.

Payette was the Canadian Space Agency’s chief astronaut from 2000 to 2007, during which time she was part of two missions to the International Space Station.

She has engineering degrees from both McGill University and the University of Toronto.

A former chief operating officer for the Montreal Science Centre, she also sat on many boards over the years; including at Queen’s University, Canada’s Own the Podium Olympic program, the National Bank of Canada and many more.

Payette is a strong lady, and a shining example of what someone can accomplish with hard work and determination. She deserves better than the media (both mainstream and social) witch hunt and character-bashing which has and continues to take place.

Her outstanding career as a Canadian astronaut, engineer, director and executive – while being a woman from Quebec during the business-world patriarchy of the 80s and 90s – shows our society that anything is possible with the right mentality, the right drive and the right choices.

All this makes me wonder if her strength, confidence and work ethic intimidated those serving under her? I wonder if she had a no-nonsense approach that didn’t cater to individuals who need constant coddling? I wonder if she decided it wasn’t worth the fight in the face of a public smear campaign.

It’s not hard to envision a bunch of bureaucrats who couldn’t handle someone with power and accomplishments demanding they be held accountable for their slacking deciding to strike back.

Maybe she didn’t follow all the new “HR policies and rules,” but nowhere have I read that her acts were racist, sexist, or discriminatory to any other particular group. In which case, why the intense hatred towards her? Why are the media outlets attacking like sharks in a feeding frenzy?

Now, let’s look into the terminology being used to explain why she needed to resign: specifically, the words “toxic work environment” and “bullying.”

This is the millennial and post-millennial terminology for having a demanding boss and not liking what is being said. You know the type of boss who helps your skin get thicker and holds you to the same high standards they hold themselves.

The type of boss who may seem like they’re picking on you, but later in life you realize it was not only a good learning experience, but it made you stronger and better suited to handle the harsh world we live in. The kind of boss you begrudgingly acknowledge were helpful despite their ways.

This is the type of leader I imagine Payette to be: unrelenting in her quest to achieve the best results and reach for the stars; demanding the same excellence she demands of herself; not being afraid to call out substandard work and laziness when she saw it.

In the end, her less than jubilant exit from her role as Governor-General should not be celebrated the way it has been; not until the full picture becomes clear when the report about her workplace demeanour becomes public.

Although, something tells me that the report will still leave room for debate on whether she was simply a tough boss who needed a bit of polishing with her language, or that she really was harassing the staff.

I’ll finish by paraphrasing a recuring segment on Real Time with Bill Maher, I don’t know it for a fact those who complained about Payette are a bunch of bureaucratic babies who couldn’t handle working for a tough woman … but, I have an inkling that it’s true.


By Chris Occhiuzzi, special to