April 17, 2024

La Ronge Northerner

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Their complaint has been verified and whistleblowers must now be protected

Their complaint has been verified and whistleblowers must now be protected

A group of whistleblowers who successfully exposed misconduct at the federal Environmental Trust is calling for better protections against potential professional and legal retaliation.

The organization at the center of this controversy is Sustainable Development Technology Canada (SDTC), a foundation created and funded by the federal government. According to the agreement with Ottawa, SDTC The mandate is to distribute $1 billion in federal funds to small and medium-sized clean technology businesses between 2021 and 2026.

However, earlier this year, this group of whistleblowers filed a complaint with the central government regarding the management of public finances and human resources. SDTC. According to our information, there are more than 20 members working in this group SDTC or former employees including former members of management.

Many of the group’s allegations have been verified in a report commissioned by the Ministry of Innovation from Raymond Chabot Grant Thornton, which has completed its work.

The Minister of Innovation, François-Philippe Champagne, responded to the report by suspending the provision of new funding. SDTC and regulating reforms related to conflicts of interest and project approvals.

François-Philippe Champagne, Minister of Innovation, Science and Industry, speaks to reporters in front of the House of Commons on Parliament Hill, Tuesday, Sept. 19, 2023, in Ottawa.

Photo: The Canadian Press / Sean Kilpatrick

That’s the problem with the group of whistleblowers SDTC An independent foundation and not subject to the same rules as federal departments regarding whistleblower protection. It is to be noted that the group has conveyed its concerns to the government regarding the recent dismissal of an employee.

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The Ministry of Innovation oversees funding and operations SDTCBut because of the trust’s legal status, current employees do not have the same protections as federal employees, he told the whistleblower panel.

[Le ministère de l’Innovation] No authority over matters affecting human resource management SDTCA senior official said via email.

Deputy NDPBrian Masse raised the issue directly with Minister François-Philippe Champagne.

[Votre ministère] The government has not provided any whistleblowers with any protection, even if their allegations were corroborated by your investigation.He emphasized in a recent letter.

Non-Disclosure Agreements

The whistleblower group behind the investigation is calling for the non-disclosure agreements signed by many of its members who are no longer employed. SDTC.

These agreements specifically prevent these former employees from posting negative comments SDTC.

Whistleblowers want assurances that they will not be punished if they cooperate with future investigations, according to one member of the group, who requested confidentiality to protect them from professional retaliation.

This group of whistleblowers is demanding an independent investigation SDTCFor example the Auditor General’s office or a parliamentary committee.

People fear that they will be sued if they say anything SDTC. They are not willing to provide documents or testimony unless non-disclosure agreements are terminated. They said we are not protected as we are not employees [du gouvernement fédéral].

Three windmills along the river.

Sustainable Development Technologies Canada funds SMEs operating in the environmental technology sector. (Archives)

Photo: Radio-Canada

Raymond Chabot Grant Thornton mentioned in his report SDTC It does not have a proper policy to manage hiring and exits within its organization. The government has asked the trust to ensure non-disclosure agreements are used Consistent with and in accordance with best practices in employment law.

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Inside SDTC, we note that those who sign non-disclosure agreements, in most cases, do not leave the company of their own free will. Also, these agreements primarily serve to protect any confidential information obtained while working within the foundation.

We add it SDTC Provides access to a confidential, independently administered line to file an anonymous complaint against the company.

Resignation requests

The whistleblower group is also demanding that members of senior management step down SDTC During his tenure many deficiencies were found in financial management and human resources.

According to these whistleblowers, it is unacceptable that the implementation of the recommendations made following the external inquiry should fall to the incumbent management and members of the board of directors.

New Democratic Party MP Brian Moss also called for the management team to leave SDTC.

Brian Moss is the NDP candidate for Windsor West.

NDP MP Brian Moss has called for greater protections for whistleblowers. (Archives)

Photo: Sanjay Maru/CBC

Report [de Raymond Chabot Grant Thornton] It raises serious questions about the credibility and competence of the team members SDTC And the management team, and I’m really worried about that [le ministère de l’Innovation] The same group of people asked them to investigate and resolve the issues raised in the reportIn a letter to Minister François-Philippe Champagne, MP

SDTC It announced that its priority was to implement the internal reforms requested by the government so that it could resume funding by redeploying its staff. SMEs In the clean technology sector.

SDTC Recognizes the impact of this temporary suspension on the ecosystem, especially at this difficult time. Hence, our priority is to speedily implement the changes recommended by the government. spokeswoman John Marie Panigan said SDTC.

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