The Canadian government has teamed up with some of the country’s largest financial institutions to launch a C$221 million ($168 million) program for Black entrepreneurs to access credit and help them bounce back from the pandemic-induced economic slump.
In a joint announcement on Wednesday, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and Minister of Small Business, Export Promotion and International Trade Mary Ng said Canada would spend nearly C$93 million over the next four years to administer the program.
The rest of the C$128 million would be provided by financial institutions that have partnered with the government for the Black Entrepreneurship Loan Fund.
“With Canada’s first-ever Black Entrepreneurship Program, our government is taking real action to support Black entrepreneurs recovering from COVID-19, and empower them to start up, innovate, grow and succeed,” Ng said.
The government initiative follows a wave of Black Lives Matter protests in both the United States and Canada and calls that Trudeau do more to address deep systemic inequities faced by Black Canadians.
The prime minister himself faced criticism last year after images showing him in brown face makeup at a 2001 “Arabian Nights” party when he was a 29-year-old teacher emerged just weeks before the federal election.
Trudeau later apologized for his actions.
The federal government is teaming up with Vancity, a Vancouver-based financial cooperative, and seven other Canadian financial institutions, including the top banks.
Under the program, Black-led business organizations can access between C$25,000 and C$250,000 through the fund to start a business.
“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.