OTTAWA — Black Canadians who want to start or grow a business will have access to loans and supports for training and mentoring under a new federal program unveiled by Prime Minister Justin Trudeau in Toronto on Wednesday.
The $221 million program jointly funded by the federal government and eight financial institutions is the first of its kind to help Black businesses nationwide. He responds to one of the requests made in June by an open letter from the Parliamentary Black Caucus signed by more than 100 MPs and senators.
Trudeau said the COVID-19 pandemic has brought to light the systemic gaps and economic barriers black Canadians face every day, and that his government wants a pandemic recovery that is “inclusive and fair for all Canadians.”
“An investment in black excellence is an investment in economic empowerment and economic empowerment is an essential part of justice,” he said. “It’s justice against a system that has locked out far too many black entrepreneurs and denied them the same opportunities as other Canadians.
Ottawa is investing $93 million over the next four years for the Black Entrepreneurship Program, while banks are contributing up to $128 million for loans between $25,000 and $250,000 for Black business owners .
The federal money will include $33 million for loans, $6.5 million to collect data on barriers that prevent black Canadians from succeeding in business, and $53 million for black business organizations to provide mentorship, financial planning and business training.
Trudeau made the announcement at a Toronto-based organization called HXOUSE, which describes itself as a “think tank” to help foster innovation and opportunities for young talent in Toronto.
HXOUSE co-founder Ahmed Ismail said the program is a welcome sign of a government acknowledging the existence of systemic racism, acknowledging that opportunities are not equally available and taking the “uncomfortable step to do something about it”.
“It’s something I’ve never really witnessed in my entire life in any country I’ve studied,” said Ismail, who was born in Somalia and also studied and worked in the United States.
Liberal MP Greg Fergus, chair of the Black Parliamentary Caucus, said the program isn’t all we need, but it will help Black Canadians be economic players, community leaders and see “that we are full Canadians and we want to be part of this wonderful country. that we call home.
“It won’t eliminate systemic discrimination and its consequences all at once, but we have taken a step forward,” he said.
This report from The Canadian Press was first published on September 9, 2020.