OTTAWA — The federal government is allocating up to $96 million in funding for Black community organizations, Social Development Minister Ahmed Hussen said Wednesday.
Speaking to reporters in Toronto, Hussen said the new funding is the largest in history from the federal government to groups that serve Black Canadians.
He said the new money will include $82 million to fund about 1,300 social infrastructure projects to enhance workplaces and community spaces and $14 million to help organizations build grassroots capacity.
Supporting these organizations is key to addressing racism and other issues facing Black Canadians, he said.
"We are working hard to address these systemic barriers," Hussen said.
"The best way to do that is to help the Canadian organizations that have done so much for so long with so little support."
The money is part of a program the Liberals launched two years ago with $25 million in funding for capacity building and infrastructure projects by Black-led groups.
Hussen said the government learned there was a need for more resources and decided to dedicate additional money to go out immediately.
The government announced up to $350 million for Black entrepreneurs in partnership with several Canadian financial institutions in September to help them survive the economic stress of the COVID-19 pandemic, but experts said the program was not enough to address the gap in funding for Black-owned businesses.
"Black Canadian entrepreneurs have told us time and again that they don't have access to capital. They don't have access to the opportunities to make tangible (their) entrepreneurial plans and strategies and dreams," Hussen said.
He said the Liberal government has introduced several initiatives and proposed several new laws in Parliament to fight racism in Canadian society but that work cannot move forward quickly with a minority government.
"Unfortunately for months on end, we've seen obstruction and delay from the other side," he said.
Speculation has been growing that the Liberals will call an election soon as Hussen and other cabinet ministers are travelling the country making campaign-style announcements.
They have also said repeatedly that Parliament is dysfunctional, a claim that opposition leaders have dismissed, noting the government has not lost any confidence votes.
Hussen also touted his government’s other initiatives aimed at Black Canadians, including a law to axe many mandatory minimum sentences to tackle the overrepresentation of people of colour in prisons.
He said Ottawa is also working on legislation to create civilian oversight of the Canada Border Services Agency, which has been accused of mistreating people of colour.
"The criminal justice bill, the CBSA oversight legislation law, the other pieces of progressive legislation that we've introduced show you where we intend to go, but in a minority Parliament you depend on support from all parliamentarians," he said.
"That's what Canadians expect us to do. We will continue to work to put those pieces (of legislation) forward."
This report by The Canadian Press was first published Aug. 4, 2021.
This story was produced with the financial assistance of the Facebook and Canadian Press News Fellowship.
Maan Alhmidi, The Canadian Press