The government of Canada has announced the launch of its first-ever Black Entrepreneurship Program.
Unveiled by Justin Trudeau at a press conference held on Wednesday, the $221 million initiative will help address the systemic barriers that Black business owners and entrepreneurs face amid the COVID-19 pandemic and beyond.
Over the next four years, the government will provide loans for up to $93 million to help Black small- and medium-sized business owners recover from the pandemic — including up to $53 million towards the creation of a new National Ecosystem Fund, $33.3 million in loans, and $6.5 million to support data collection on the systemic barriers encountered by Black entrepreneurs across the country.
"The pandemic has shone a light on the inequalities that disproportionately hurt Black Canadians, and has underscored the need to restart our economy in a way that allows all Canadians an equal chance to succeed," Trudeau said in a news release. "As we move forward, this program will help support Black entrepreneurs and create new opportunities for Black-owned businesses, so they are well positioned for our economic recovery."
The prime minister announced the program at HXOUSE, a "think centre" co-founded by singer-songwriter The Weeknd. The Canadian artist — who recently supported the Global Aid for Lebanon campaign with a donation of $300,000 — helps Black, Indigenous, and other people of colour gain access to business and mentorship opportunities through this platform.
Black business owners and entrepreneurs face unique challenges accessing the financial tools and mentorship they need to succeed - and we’re taking action to change that. Today at @HXOUSE, we’re launching Canada’s first-ever Black Entrepreneurship Program. pic.twitter.com/Uq7H0kWP35— Justin Trudeau (@JustinTrudeau) September 9, 2020
The announcement came as a response to an open letter signed by dozens of parliamentarians calling on the government to engage in systemic reforms to improve the lives of Black Canadians — a process that was lagging, despite Trudeau saying he was committed to looking for ways to address such issues, the Globe and Mail reported.
The government says the newly-launched program will help tackle systemic racism and inequalities as part of its Anti-Racism Strategy. Statistics Canada, which committed to collecting race-based crime data in July, will also help Ottawa gain a better understanding of the barriers faced by Black entrepreneurs.
"Our commitment to diversity and inclusion is unwavering, and the new Black Entrepreneurship Program reflects this," Minister of Diversity and Inclusion and Youth Bardish Chagger said. "This program was created through collaboration with Black-led organizations, because Black Canadians know what their communities need best. This is another step towards removing the systemic barriers that exist within our society to create a truly inclusive Canada."