When, last year, the Trudeau government announced a $221 million investment in its Black Entrepreneurship Program (BEP,) it represented a significant sift after successive Canada governments have been ignoring the plight of Black entrepreneurs for decades.
Black business owners and aspiring entrepreneurs across the country were rightfully excited by the announcement given their historic challenges in accessing financing for their businesses.
And many have had their eyes set on the Entrepreneurship Loan Fund segment of the BEP, described as a partnership between the Government of Canada, Black-led business organizations, and several financial institutions. It promises up to $250,000 in loans that may finally help some of these small and medium-sized businesses get over the many obstacles that have been slowing their path to success for years.
The initial output was about $30 million but additional commitment by financial institutions might have boosted it to well over S125 million
Here’s the problem.
Since the announcement was made, news on the entrepreneurship loan fund has been non-existent, which of course triggers the usual sentiments of distrust and disrespect in our community.
The calls coming to our offices over the past several weeks reflect those feelings…. the businessman who sees it as a lack of openness and transparency, the entrepreneur from the southwest district who can’t quite understand why nothing is be made public since the big announcement… or as one person offered: it’s because we’re Black,
Sadly, the tendency by those entrusted with fiduciary powers over government money meant for our community has always been to disconnect as quickly as they can… disrespect usually follows.
It’s nothing new, has been so for decades and will no doubt continue… it’s the makings of those with limited power.
Usually governments and grant agencies are okay with that behavior because they especially, are distrusting of Blacks.
So here’s the deal.
An organization titled the Federation of African Canadian Economics (F.A.C.E) has been trusted with the responsibilities of managing the loan fund, as announced by Mary Ng, Minister of Small Business, Export Promotion and International Trade in a statement several months ago.
This umbrella group claims to be a “coalition of black-led organizations dedicated to stimulating economic growth and creating generational wealth for Canadians of African Descent.”
The partner organizations identified are Africa Centre, Black Business Initiative (BBI), Black Business and Professional Association (BBPA),Cote des Neiges Black Community Association, and Groupe 3737.
And they go on to further claim that their “movement is rooted in the indubitable fact that Canadians of African Descent are the backbone of our nation.”
They can be found online with one of the glitziest websites this side of a Fortune 500 corporation. And the bigwigs running the outfit are all there in title and full corporate gear.
But a perusal of the website doesn’t offer much information on the loan program although the government site said it will be launched in May, this month.
A couple weeks ago, Community CONTACT did its due diligence and requested an interview to inform readers about the rollout of the loans.
We were advised that we’d have to wait until the big announcement in May…. we’re waiting.
But as we wait we cannot help but be frightened by the initial posturing of this group of managers who appears to have chosen the well-used path of disconnect and disrespect when handed what should be a sacred opportunity to work on behalf of a community that for long has been hobbled by powers both on the outside and within.