The consul general of France in Toronto targeted by complaints of harassment

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The Consul General of France in Toronto targeted by complaints of harassment

At least six formal complaints have been filed by employees against Tudor Alexis.

The Consul General of France in Toronto , Tudor Alexis

“Humiliation sessions”, “sexist remarks”, “threats”… It is in these words that collaborators of Tudor Alexis report their experience within the Consulate General of Toronto. However, an investigation by the French authorities concludes that there was no fault.

Radio-Canada spoke with eight people who worked under the authority of the diplomat or his sides during two of his missions, the one he is currently leading in the Queen City, as well as the one he led as first counselor at the French Embassy in Malta.

All report repeated bullying, sexist or aggressive behavior on the part of Mr. Alexis, who represents French nationals in Ontario and Manitoba.

According According to the documents and testimonies obtained by Radio-Canada, at least six people have made reports to the anti-harassment unit of the Ministry for Europe and Foreign Affairs, called Zero Tolerance.

Radio-Canada has agreed not to reveal the identity of the people who testified, because they fear possible repercussions on their professional future. Their identity and their role within the consulate or in its entourage could however be confirmed.

One ​​of the complainants agreed to speak to us openly.

Hired in February 2022 as an agent specializing in the organization of the French presidential elections, Rafaëlle Pons was disillusioned from her first days at the Toronto consulate. I arrived in an extremely tense climate, she says.

Rafaëlle Pons considered a career in the function French public, but completely rejects the idea today.

Quickly, the consul general would have got into the habit of summoning her daily to his office. The first time, to explain to him who is in charge. I'm the boss, everything has to go through me, Tudor Alexis would have told him. Subsequently, to question his work or give him often contradictory directives, according to Rafaëlle Pons.

“We doubt his own skills, of its own "sanity". I started coming every morning with a lump in my stomach. »

— Rafaëlle Pons, former employee of the Consulate General of France in Toronto

In addition to this display of authority which she now considers to be intimidation, Rafaëlle Pons evokes a sexist behavior, characterized by a difference in treatment between male and female colleagues in the way of addressing them, but also in the way of assigning tasks and withdrawing from them.

After the first round of presidential elections, the relationship reached breaking point. That day, the consul reportedly ordered him to change the scheduled time and later blamed him for an error at a public polling place. The interaction had such an effect on her that she says she went to her house and cried. It was more like tears of anger and rage, she recalls.

After this evening, Rafaëlle Pons made the decision to make an official report to the zero tolerance cell. She claims to have given a testimony during a telephone call, but never to have obtained a response or follow-up from the cell.

Among the complaints made by at least six people, only the one filed by the deputy consul, Yves Chauchat, led to the holding of an administrative investigation. Of the six reports, it was the only one that had been made by a man.

In an email to Radio-Canada, the French ambassador to Canada, Michel Miraillet, affirms that an administrative investigation has indeed been carried out. He adds that all the stakeholders were able to be questioned or were able to report their testimony in writing.

Michel Miraillet, Ambassador of France to Canada

“This investigation led to the conclusion that there was no harassment. »

— Michel Miraillet, Ambassador of France to Canada

Mr. Miraillet also emphasizes that the internal situation at the consulate has nevertheless been the subject of the necessary clarifications and accompanying measures.

For his part, the consul general of France in Toronto assured, in a note sent to collaborators following the publication of an article published last week by the French media Letter A, that the investigation had proved of his innocence.

A letter sent at the end of the investigation and consulted by Radio-Canada concludes that the faults are shared between the consul general and the deputy consul himself and that harassment cannot be confirmed.

As a result of this investigation, the Consul General and the Deputy Consul were reportedly invited to participate in joint training sessions on teamwork. These stopped after a few months. Deputy Consul Yves Chauchat would then have been informed of the imminent end of his mandate in Toronto and of an imminent repatriation to France. For now, he is still in office.

The Consul General responded to our interview requests with a series of emails. He explains there to follow the instructions of his superiors to the letter and not to be authorized to speak to the press on the details of this affair.

Mr. Alexis mentions, however, that there are several aspects to this affair [that we ignore] including unacknowledged motivations and specifies that Radio-Canada refused to grant anonymity to certain people in his office who would have liked to testify.

Indeed, three other people got in touch with Radio-Canada, after an official request to the press attaché of the consulate. By telephone, they claimed to work at the consulate and wanted to testify to a different experience from those alleged in the article in Letter A. However, they refused to identify themselves or confirm their role within the organization.

Tudor Alexis, Consul General of France in Toronto

Finally, the Consul General believes that Radio-Canada knowingly [refused] to see these motivations and [thrown] the reputation of a person from a visible minority on the basis of certain prejudices.

“It is your sovereign decision, but I reserve the right to take this matter of discriminatory treatment to the appropriate courts. »

— Tudor Alexis, Consul General of France in Toronto, in an email to Radio-Canada

In addition, after the publication of the French site, the consul sent a note to several of his collaborators. He informs them of the publication of these allegations, underlines the conclusions of the investigation which according to him prove his innocence. If I can ask you one thing, he adds, it would be to keep the friendship you have for me intact while waiting for the truth to be established, including through legal proceedings.

Rafaëlle Pons' contract ended in June 2022. The young woman remains convinced that the situation is continuing and wanted to express herself in solidarity with a team that she describes as neglected, at arm's length and a staff who works in fear.

Tiffany has no trouble believing her. She held the position of Cultural Attaché at the Toronto Consulate between 2017 and 2021. She prefers that only her first name be used to avoid negative impacts on her career and current job.

She confides that she was initially very happy with the appointment of Tudor Alexis to the post of consul general, because he seemed to have a flawless career, having been naturalized French and being a success story of the French Republic.

Today, she describes him as a complex personality who can have good sides, but also particularly aggressive sides.

A ministerial visit dating back to 2019 was particularly significant for Tiffany. A member of his team would have liked to denounce an inappropriate gesture on the part of a member of the minister's entourage. She and Tiffany reportedly went to the consul general's office. Tiffany recalls being shocked when, immediately after citing her rights to the complainant, the consul tried to dissuade her from filing a complaint and claimed that he believed the employee in question had committed professional misconduct.

According to the former attaché, the embassy in Ottawa, for its part, supported her approach and took appropriate measures. Although the most significant, this event is far from the only one that seemed inappropriate to him.

took it, through fits of anger and verbal abuse, mainly to women in the service. »

— Tiffany, former cultural attaché at the French consulate in Toronto

She denounces in particular ordinary sexism, aggressive words, pressure exerted on young women who were not in positions of power. Tiffany also points out that when she arrived in office, the consul asked her to monitor the actions of an employee.

She does not consider herself a victim of Mr. Alexis and has never reported his behavior. However, she submitted written evidence against the diplomat and confirms having had an altercation with him, which she describes as an outburst of anger with shouting in meetings and insulting remarks, and which required the intervention of the deputy consul. .

Other documents obtained by Radio-Canada show similar actions by Tudor Alexis while he held other positions. These are three letters written by different people who all worked with Mr. Alexis when he was First Counselor at the French Embassy in Malta, from 2009 to 2012.

The letters mention a tendency to authoritarianism, a man insisting on his responsibilities, greedy for power, showing an excess of firmness and a lack of empathy. One of the authors mentions unhealthy authority drives, always out of place, and basically quite perverse.

All recount the negative impact that the number 2 of the embassy then had on certain employees, describing people arriving at their post with fear in their stomachs, even with tears in their eyes.

According to these documents, Mr. Alexis required certain employees to meet daily or be constantly accountable for their actions. They also mention his problem with authority, contradictory directives to his staff, inappropriate or humiliating remarks sometimes aimed at people's private lives and pronounced in front of several people at the same time.

Two letters also mention that Tudor Alexis would have uttered threats of reprisals against an employee whose career he wanted to ruin.

According to information given to Radio-Canada, these three letters been provided to the French Ministry for Europe and Foreign Affairs in the spring of 2022, before or during the administrative investigation carried out by the Embassy at the request of the Ministry.

The case of Tudor Alexis does not seem to be isolated in diplomacy.

Last October, a group of elected members of the Assembly of French Citizens Abroad (AFE), a advisory body for French people living outside France, asked a public question to the Ministry for Europe and Foreign Affairs (MEAE).

The group says it has a front row seat to testify to the many cases of harassment present within the institutions dependent on the MEAE. He notes that, despite the creation of the anti-harassment cell and the numerous alerts, he attends confirmations of the retention of people directly involved in serious situations of harassment, before asking the question: What does the Ministry intend to do to ensure that such situations do not happen again?

Three of the authors of the question, Laetitia Bert, Ramzi Sfeir, and Jean-Baka Domelevo Entfellner, confirmed during an interview with Radio-Canada that they had not received a response. They say they are not looking exclusively at the allegations heard from Toronto.

Ramzi Sfeir is an advisor to French people living abroad for the riding of Montreal-Moncton-Halifax.

“Unfortunately our mandate is limited to observing and advising. So, we observe, we advise, we make things visible and we hope that it will help to change things globally. »

— Ramzi Sfeir, consular adviser to French nationals living abroad for the riding of Montreal-Moncton-Halifax

The purpose of the process, the three elected officials, is also to ensure the continuity of the services offered by the consulates to the compatriots they represent.

When asked about their motivations, the people we spoke to told us that remedies to their provisions had been exhausted.

Not employed since 2021, Tiffany believes that what she witnessed appears to continue even today and she would like something to be done about the hierarchy. Otherwise, it is a validation of these behaviors.

The MEAE did not respond to our interview request.

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