Canada's federal government is launching a program promising to deliver $221 million in funding for Black-owned businesses and entrepreneurs.

Speaking at Toronto's HXOUSE innovation think-centre Wednesday, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said the COVID-19 pandemic has disproportionately affected Black Canadians and "exacerbated" inequality in Canada.

“We need an economic recovery that’s inclusive and equitable for all Canadians,” Trudeau said. “An investment in Black excellence is an investment in economic empowerment, and economic empowerment is an essential part of justice."

Touted as Canada's first “Black Entrepreneurship Program,” the initiative boasts a total value of $221 million over four years, $93 million of which will come from the federal government and the rest coming from Canadian financial institutions, including major firms like the Royal Bank of Canada, Scotiabank, TD, CIBC, and Bank of Montreal.

"This program will help thousands of Black business owners and entrepreneurs across the country recover from this crisis and grow their businesses," says a release from the Prime Minister's office.

The program will include up to $53 million to develop a "National Ecosystem Fund" aimed at supporting Black-led business organizations across Canada, and helping Black business owners access funding, mentorship, financial planning, and business training.

An additional $33.3 million will go towards a "Black Entrepreneurship Loan Fund" that will provide loans ranging from $25,000 and $250,000 for Black business owners and entrepreneurs. The funding for this will come from Ottawa and the aforementioned financial institutions.

Up to $6.5 million will go towards creating a "Black Entrepreneurship Knowledge Hub," which will gather data on the state of Black entrepreneurship in Canada and help pinpoint the barriers to success Black entrepreneurs face. Ottawa says the Hub will be run by Black-led community and business organizations, who will partner up with educational institutions.

Back in June, support for Black businesses was among the requests in a letter penned by the Parliamentary Black Caucus urging governments across Canada to address systemic racism immediately. At the time, Trudeau vowed to take action "very soon" to help remedy the deep-rooted racism present in the country's institutions.

"We are proud as Canadians that our country is moving past talking about systemic issues in our community to directly investing in them," reads a statement from HXOUSE. "This will become a model that more countries and corporations should adopt because the only way out of this recession is investing in new ideas."

 

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