Sustainable Development Technology Canada (LinkedIn)

A whistleblower working for Sustainable Development Technology Canada (SDTC) is accusing the clean tech fund of laying off scores of employees to cover up complaints and allegations of corporate misconduct. 

The allegations are supported by a Raymond Chabot Grant Thornton report that identified problems with the clean tech fund’s employee turnover, internal cultural issues, and a general failure of human resources policies.

The whistleblower, whom True North is not naming, said that over the course of several years, dozens of SDTC employees were laid off without cause and have been forced to sign restrictive non-disclosure agreements, legally barring them from speaking up.

The source claimed that for years, some SDTC employees had noticed the organization had been deviating from its mandate by funding ineligible organizations and making funding decisions where there were clear conflicts of interest between the board and the recipients.

However, the whistleblower said that whenever SDTC employees took notice of the corporate mismanagement and tried raising the issues with their superiors, management would initiate layoffs.

“After a while, there’s been these mass layoffs again and again,” the source said.

“If you work in a place of 50-60 people and then f–ing 15 people get fired, it completely silences the whole situation because then everyone’s like, ‘holy sh-t these guys are serious.’”

The Raymond Chabot report notes that SDTC has “retention challenges” and “culture issues,” and that “turnover is recognized and noted as a common issue.”

The report also says that SDTC does not have a record, verbal or written, of employee complaints or whistleblowing. 

In response to a comprehensive list of questions from True North, SDTC did not address these allegations specifically, but has denied wrongdoing in a public statement.

The source who spoke to True North said employees fired in these waves were terminated without cause and had to sign restrictive NDAs as part of their severance packages. This claim could not be independently verified by True North.

The source specifically mentioned a particularly large wave of layoffs in 2018, with smaller layoff waves between then and 2022. 

After SDTC had conducted mass layoffs towards the end of 2022, former and current employees compiled evidence of alleged corporate misconduct and gave it to Innovation, Science and Economic Development Canada (ISED), the department responsible for overseeing and funding SDTC, the source said.

The Raymond Chabot report noted that the investigation was prompted by a confidential file ISED officials received from a former employee, containing allegations “related to the governance and management of contributions to ultimate recipients as well as matters related to organizational health.”

True North’s whistleblower said this file contained the collective work of 30 current and former employees working together to expose what they viewed as “corruption.”

In response to the Raymond Chabot report Innovation Minister François-Philippe Champagne announced the temporary suspension of funding for all new SDTC projects until corrective measures are put in place.

The whistleblower rejected that the people accused of wrongdoing are now tasked with fixing the problems.

“Wait, so (the report) found every single thing that’s been alleged – so why the f– haven’t those same people who’ve been found to have broken those policies and mismanaged in total over $100 million in taxpayer money been fired immediately?” they asked. 

The day after Champagne announced the pause on SDTC funding, SDTC released a statement defending saying there is no evidence of wrongdoing and that it will not be conducting an investigation.

“We note the report found no clear evidence of wrongdoing or misconduct at SDTC and indicated that no further investigation is merited,” read a statement from the agency.

“The SDTC Board of Directors and leadership team are carefully reviewing the report and are taking action to implement the recommendations as quickly as possible to minimize disruption to Canada’s sustainable innovation ecosystem.”