For decades Black entrepreneurs have been building businesses here in Quebec and across Canada under the most hostile of conditions, not the least of which include: difficulties in securing loans and other forms of financing and support mechanism and plying their goods and services to a client base that’s highly demanding and at times, fickle.
Still, they plug on, investing what little money they can get their hands, lots of sweat and time… working upwards of 80 hours a week and missing invaluable family moments. Such is the reality of doing business.
Also for decades, demands for help from the government have been falling on deaf ears.
Then, out of the recent time of reckoning following the public murder of George Floyd came an announcement from the Trudeau government that they are investing $221 million aimed at helping Black entrepreneurs access capital.
Well glory, hallelujah for the community.
On Monday, May 31, the prime minister joined a line-up of Black parliamentarians along with banking officials and community representatives to announce that up to $291,3 million will be made available in two phases in loans to existing businesses as well as start-ups in the community.
Black business owners and aspiring entrepreneurs across Canada can borrow from $25,000 up to $250,000 under the program.
The responsibilities of managing the loan fund and handling applications were given to something called the Federation of African Canadian Economics (F.A.C.E,) an umbrella organization constituted by a coalition of community organizations including Africa Centre, Black Business and Professional Association, the Black Business Initiative, The Cote des Neiges Black Community Association (CDNBCA) and Group 3737.
(Especially for us in the English-speaking sector of the community, none of these organizations is familiar, I dare say, including the CDNBCA.)
That aside, the expectation following the big announcement on May 31, was that businesses and entrepreneurs across the country would have been flooded with information on how to apply for loans, conditions of repayment, and other details.
Not a word from F.A.C.E.
Instead, you’re directed to their website to try to navigate a maze of irrelevant questions, which so far, as far we can tell, have not gotten anyone close to a loan.
So try the Facebook page, the big announcement there was that more than 12,000 entrepreneurs signed up to become members of F.A.C.E, what that has to do with accessing loans, only Jah knows.
However, you’ll also see comments from frustrated entrepreneurs who tried to apply for loans and were stymied for one reason or the other.
That frustration eventually made its way to The National on CBC on Monday, June 28 when several applicants used the national newscast to express their disgust with the application process and the lingering silence from this thing called F.A.C.E.
In a recent publication (May 12, 2021) we pointed to the recurring problem that afflicts organizations such as F.A.C.E.
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.
So here we are, big announcements, promises of millions of dollars in loans to Black businesses, not a word from those responsible directly to the hundreds of entrepreneurs who have been toiling for years and years in this community and waiting.
Stinging evidence of the disconnect and disrespect we refer to.
To say it’s a disgrace and a disservice to our community and our entrepreneurs is an understatement.
It’s obvious that the Trudeau government has been less than efficient in choosing those who are to manage the loans program.
The shame would be for this program to disintegrate into chaos and big banks and other institutions start getting over their George Floyd-induced guilt and pull away.
Black businesses and entrepreneurs have been working too hard for too long without support. They need this loans program.
What they don’t need is for a group of pretenders in government and in the community to muck it up.