Tuesday, 19 November 2019

Stakeholders Welcome Funds to Create National Institute for Black Canadians

By Neil Armstrong

Photo contributed         Robert Small, artrepreneur of LEGACY Enterprises is a member of the group, Meeting of the Minds

Stakeholders supporting the creation of a national institute dedicated to looking at issues that affect Black communities are welcoming the initial deposit of funds by the federal government to make it a reality.

Within days of the federal election, an agreement was signed with Employment and Services Development Canada (ESDC) to begin the feasibility study for the Canadian Institute for Persons of African Descent (CIPAD).  

On October 24, the government disbursed the first installment of funds, ($174,000.00), which will allow the stakeholders to begin the work on creating the first national institute for Black Canadians.

 CIPAD is the brainchild of almost 40 stakeholder organizations representing a diverse range of Black communities and interests from across Canada. On July 23 this year they all signaled their support for the project.

Much of the work was done through the groups, Meeting of the Minds and the Push Coalition, which provided leadership, community capacity building and strategizing. 

Robert Small, artrepreneur of LEGACY Enterprises, says this is very historic. He highlighted the work of Meeting of the Minds “a coalition being built of over 40 African Canadian organizations” and the Push Coalition working together for more than a year for this purpose. 

He said the onus is now on the African Canadian community on a national scale to create something of a national importance for generations to come.

Meanwhile, Rosemarie Powell, executive director of Toronto Community Benefits Network, says they are excited about it because it is new and a different way of working with the federal government.

She said the United Nations Decade for People of African Descent is a recognition that has finally come and the Government of Canada has decided even though it was three years later to acknowledge it and is now putting some resources into helping to build capacity in Black communities across Canada.

“It’s a start, $25 million over five years will be more of a seed to germinate some good ideas and ways of working and bringing the organizations who have been working across Canada, oftentimes in silos, together to have a more coordinated approach.”

Powell said they want to look at all other funding sources from the government of where their taxpayer dollars are going.

“For me, in terms of the Toronto Community Benefits Network and our push for community benefits what we want to see is that all infrastructure dollars that the Government of Canada is investing should have a Community Benefits Agreement and should specifically target the Black community because of they’ve been significantly historically not represented in the construction industry.”

She said CIPAD will help Black organizations to come together and should bring issues like this to the table “once we have convened all these different Black community organizations from across Canada.”

“We need foundational pieces for our community that CIPAD will address like research and development and aggregation of data specific to the Black community so that we can really know where we stand in the larger picture and we can actually create solutions that are specific to the Black communities’ needs.”

Powell said having an institution like CIPAD is essential to start building those “building blocks to allow us to be able to come together collectively and build our capacity so that we can grow our community over time.”

Photo contributed   Rosemarie Powell, executive director of Toronto Community Benefits Network, is also involved in the group, Meeting of the Minds

On August 27, the government announced that it would help these stakeholders to create the first national institute for Black Canadians. 

The Canadian Institute for Persons of African Descent will work to advance initiatives that impact Black Canadians at a systemic level.

In recognition of the United Nations International Decade for People of African Descent, the government’s 2019 budget provided $25 million over five years starting in 2019-20, for projects and capital assistance to celebrate, share knowledge and build capacity in Canada's vibrant Black Canadian communities.

Floydeen Charles-Fridal, executive director of the Caribbean African Canadian Social Services (CAFCAN) in Toronto, collaborated with the Delmore “Buddy” Daye Learning Institute in Halifax, Nova Scotia and others to submit a proposal for CIPAD.

Coming out of Meeting of the Minds (MOM) that Charles-Fridal has been spearheading over the last couple of years, a number of Black organizations got together under a spinoff group called the UN Decade for People of African Descent Push Coalition to apply pressure to the federal government to make sure that monies that were earmarked for Black Canadians did not get lost in elections and new governments, if that does happen.

In January 2018, the Prime Minister announced that Canada officially recognized the UN International Decade for People of African Descent spanning from 2015 to 2024. 

The government said new investments delivered through an intermediary model would help community organizations to identify and address gaps, allowing Black Canadian communities to use their expertise to tailor initiatives to their specific circumstances. 

In addition to the Institute, stakeholder groups agreed to an approach where they will work together to fund projects that build the capacity of not-for-profit organizations serving Black communities across Canada. 

Under the intermediary model, the Social Development Partnership Program would fund selected high capacity organizations who would hold an open and transparent funding process to which grassroots organizations across Canada could apply for funding for capacity building projects in their communities.

[This story was published in the North American Weekly Gleaner, Nov. 14-20, 2019.]

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