On Wednesday, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said black Canadians who desire to begin or grow a business would get loans and support for training and mentorship under a new federal program unveiled by him. The $221-million program is the first of its kind to help Black businesses on a national scale. It is jointly financed by the federal government and eight financial institutions to respond to one of the demands made in June by an open letter from the Parliamentary Black Caucus.
Trudeau stated that his government wants a pandemic recovery that is “inclusive and equitable for all Canadians” as the COVID-19 pandemic has put a spotlight on the systemic gaps and economic barriers Black Canadians face every day. He said economic empowerment is an essential part of justice and an investment in Black excellence is an investment in economic empowerment. He added that it was justice against a system that had locked out far too many Black businesspersons and repudiated them the same opportunities as other Canadians.
Over the next four years, Ottawa will put up $93 million for the Black Entrepreneurship Program. At the same time, banks are donating up to $128 million for loans between $25,000 and $250,000 for Black business owners. The federal cash will include $33 million towards the loans, $53 million for Black business organizations to provide mentorship, financial planning, and business training, and $6.5 million to collect data on the barriers preventing Black Canadians from succeeding in business.
Trudeau announced that a Toronto organization called HXOUSE, which is known as a “think centre,” will assist in fostering innovation and opportunities for young talents in Toronto. Ahmed Ismail, the HXOUSE co-founder, said the program is a welcome sign of a government acknowledging systemic racism exists, taking “the uncomfortable step of doing something about it,” addressing the fact opportunities are not equally available.
Ismail, who was born in Somalia and has also studied and worked in the United States, said the program was something he had not witnessed in all his life in any country. Besides, Liberal MP Greg Fergus, the chair of the Parliamentary Black Caucus, said the program was not all that was needed but would assist Black Canadians to be economic actors, community leaders and see “that we are full Canadians and want to participate in this wonderful country that we call home.” He added that it would not in one fell swoop eliminate all systemic discrimination and the consequences, but it was a positive step forward.