A financial support program of C$221 million has been launched to aid businesses owned by black Canadians across the country amid the Covid-19 crisis, said Prime Minister Justin Trudeau.
In a statement on Wednesday, Trudeau said that the pandemic has put a spotlight on the systemic gaps and economic barriers the black community in Canada face every day, and that his government wants a recovery that is “inclusive and equitable for all Canadians”, reports Xinhua news agency.
“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.
“It’s justice against a system that has locked out far too many black entrepreneurs and denied them the same opportunities as other Canadians.”
This is the first program of its kind in Canada to help black-owned businesses on a national scale.
It comes as a response to one of the requests made in June in an open letter from the Parliamentary Black Caucus that was signed by more than 100 MPs and senators.
Of the C$221 million, about C$93 million will come from the government over the next four years, and C$128 million will come from eight Canadian financial institutions.
“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,” Trudeau added.
Nadine Spencer, president of the Black Business and Professional Association, called Wednesday’s announcement a “game changer” for black business owners who have struggled for access to capital and loans.
“I always say that the biggest challenge black business owners face is that the owners are Black,” she told CBC News in an interview.
“Systemic racism, that is is the biggest factor when we walk into a bank. There is something different for black businesses than for mainstream businesses.”