Committee of the Whole to Consider Subject Matter of Bill C-9 – Sen. Bernard

By: The Hon. Wanda Thomas Bernard

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Red River, Winnipeg

Senator Bernard: My first question is a follow up to Senator Cordy’s question and your response, minister. You said that a number of businesses were supported in the previous legislation, and I’m wondering if you have race-based data and if you could tell us how many of those businesses that did receive support previously were racialized businesses. In particular, I’m interested in how many were Black-owned businesses.

Ms. Freeland: Thank you very much for that important question, senator. Together with my colleague Ahmed Hussen, I was lucky enough to participate in a round table with some Black business leaders talking about Black entrepreneurship and the coronavirus response.

I don’t have that breakdown for the CECRA support, but I do agree that we as a government need to do a much better job of collecting disaggregated data. I’m also very pleased that the Prime Minister and Minister Mary Ng were able to announce a special fund for Black entrepreneurship a few weeks ago. That is something I discussed this morning with the Prime Minister. He is very keen for us to get it up and running very quickly, and we’re working on that.

Senator Bernard: Thank you, minister. Now for the question I wanted to ask today: COVID-19 has amplified existing inequities impacting Black communities. In the Toronto Fallout Report: Half a Year in the Life of COVID-19, 39% of Black Canadians indicated that the pandemic had a strong or moderate impact on their ability to meet their financial obligations or essential needs.

I commend the support given to Black business owners and entrepreneurs through the Black Entrepreneurship Program. However, I am hearing from black-led community and business organizations that the process of gaining access to the funds, and the application processes themselves, are very cumbersome. Many state that they cannot afford to wait for the government to issue a call for concepts for the National Ecosystem Fund and the Black Entrepreneurship Knowledge Hub. Black business owners are tired of being an afterthought, and they need support now.

Minister Freeland, how will the government ensure that black Canadians have equitable access to timely relief, and that their voices are included during the development of an equitable recovery?

Ms. Freeland: Thank you again, senator, for that really important question. Let me kind of try to answer it in parts.

First of all, thank you for that very specific feedback about the programs. I agree with you that there is an urgent need to get those programs up and running, and to make the process of getting access to them as smooth and quick as possible. That’s useful feedback, and I will follow up on it with my colleagues in cabinet.

In terms of the broader response, I think that we need to be aware that COVID — both in terms of the health impact and the economic impact — has not touched all Canadians equally. Racialized Black Canadians have been hit harder, and we need to be aware of that, both in the support programs that we’re providing to get through coronavirus, and we will also need to be very mindful of that in the measures that we put in place in what I think of as our COVID recession recovery plan, which we are working to design right now.

Senator Bernard: Thank you very much.

The Chair: Senator Bernard, you still have two minutes.

Senator Bernard: It’s fine. Thank you.

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