Prime Minister Justin Trudeau today announced a new multi-million dollar program to help Black Canadians get business loans with national banks, while promising more measures to tackle systemic racism in Canada.
The $221-million program will receive about $93 million from the federal government over the next four years and $128 million from eight financial institutions.
Ottawa is deploying close to $33 million — along with funds from RBC, BMO Financial Group, Scotiabank, CIBC, National Bank, TD, Vancity, and Alterna Savings — to create a new Black entrepreneurship loan program which will provide Black entrepreneurs with loans between $25,000 and $250,000.
Another $53 million from the federal government will go toward helping entrepreneurs access funding, capital, mentorship, financial planning services and business training, while $6.5 million will go support collecting data on the state of Black entrepreneurship in Canada.
“We’ve heard very clearly from the Black community that economic empowerment is an essential step toward breaking down those barriers and creating true success, not just for the Black community but for our country,” Trudeau said when questioned by reporters about his government’s anti-racism strategy.
“I recognize there’s much more to do on the justice system, much more to do on public safety and working with police and we will have more things to talk about.”
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Support for Black-run businesses was one of the requests in a letter drafted by the Parliamentary Black Caucus back in June. The letter called on governments across Canada to immediately address systemic racism.
“We’re listening to that document. We’re also engaging directly with the Black community and hearing the challenges, the issues, the impediments, the barriers that we need to tackle,” said Trudeau while making the announcement at HXOUSE in Toronto, which describes itself as a “think centre.”
“But there are many other elements, whether it’s our justice system, whether it’s around public security, whether it’s around community supports, that we’re going to continue to work on.”
Liberal MP Greg Fergus, the chair of the Parliamentary Black Caucus, said the program represents progress.
“It will not in one fell swoop eliminate all systemic discrimination and the consequences, but we’ve taken a positive step forward,” he said.
In July, as “Black Lives Matter” protests swept North America, Trudeau announced his cabinet had created a summer work plan to draft policies to tackle systemic racism in Canada and to help eliminate barriers facing Indigenous and racialized people and those with disabilities.
At the time, NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh accused the prime minister of not acting to eliminate systemic racism and criticized him for kneeling at a protest instead of making legislative changes.
“[Trudeau] has done less to address police brutality and violence than even [U.S. President Donald] Trump has done. That is shameful,” he said.
As part of the cabinet’s plan, Justice Minister David Lametti has been asked to examine possible reforms to the legal system, Employment Minister Carla Qualtrough and Immigration Minister Marco Mendicino are looking at improvements to the temporary foreign worker program and Public Safety Minister Bill Blair is looking into “modernizing policing structures and updating standards regarding the use of force.”