Trudeau announces $ 221 million loan program for black entrepreneurs

OTTAWA – Black Canadians looking to start or grow a business will have access to loans and supports for training and mentoring under a new federal program unveiled Wednesday by Prime Minister Justin Trudeau in Toronto.

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. It responds to one of the requests made in June with an open letter from the Parliamentary Black Caucus signed by more than 100 deputies and senators.

Trudeau said the COVID-19 pandemic has highlighted the systemic shortcomings and economic barriers black Canadians face every day, and that his government wants a pandemic recovery that is “inclusive and equitable 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 is justice against a system that has locked out far too many black entrepreneurs and denied them the same opportunities as other Canadians.”

Ottawa is contributing $ 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 the barriers that prevent black Canadians from succeeding in business, and $ 53 million for black business organizations to provide mentoring, 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 recognizing the existence of systemic racism, addressing the fact that opportunities are not equally available and taking “the uncomfortable step of doing something about it “.

“This is something that I have never really witnessed in my entire life in any of the countries where I 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 is not all we need, but will help black Canadians be economic actors, community leaders and see “that we are full Canadians and want to be a part of this wonderful country we call home. “

“It will not eliminate all systemic discrimination and its consequences all at once, but we have taken a step forward,” he said.

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