By Neil Armstrong
|Photo credit: Kathy Grant Floydeen Charles-Fridal, executive director of the Caribbean African Canadian Social Services (CAFCAN)|
Meeting of the Minds (MOM), a group of Black community leaders and organizations, says it is pleased that after several months the results of its collective efforts have paid off.
On May 16, Ahmed Hussen, Minister of Families, Children and Social Development announced the names of the intermediary entities that will lead the distribution of the $25M allocated under the umbrella budget for the UN International Decade for People of African Descent.
The Black Business Initiative, Le Groupe 3737 and Tropicana Community Services were named as the organizations that will ensure that Black communities can fund programs and operations related to capacity building and infrastructure projects.
While congratulating them, MOM commended the federal government for choosing the agencies that it identified and recommended to the ministry last year.
On August 27, 2019, the government simultaneously announced the $25M capacity building fund in Montreal, Toronto and Halifax.
Both announcements are a result of several years of advocacy work by some Black community leaders who pushed the government to recognize the UN International Decade for People of African Descent, and the 2017 report from the UN Group of Experts on People of African Descent that followed their visit to Canada to look into the human rights condition of Black Canadians.
MOM also said a recommendation of over 35 Black community organizations and leaders from across the country at an all-day working meeting hosted by Employment and Service Development in Gatineau, Quebec on July 23, 2019 influenced the protocol of how these funds would be allocated.
The group said it was certain that these announcements are efforts to underscore the federal government's commitment to the UN International Decade for People of African Descent,” noting that Minister Hussen stated that “this is another step forward” in that direction.
“We look forward to the intermediaries’ continued engagement with Meeting of the Minds, their ongoing service to community and continued success in doing so. We stand committed to working with government and organizations across Canada dedicated to equity and racial justice to build capacity in our diverse Black communities across this nation. We remain steadfast in mobilizing around these efforts,” said MOM.
In its presentation of the 2019 budget, the government noted that in recognition of the United Nations International Decade for People of African Descent it would provide $25M 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.
A few months later, Adam Vaughan, parliamentary secretary to the minister of families, children and social development, announced the government’s support would help stakeholders to create the first national institute for Black Canadians.
The Canadian Institute for Persons of African Descent (CIPAD) will work to advance initiatives that impact Black Canadians at a systemic level.
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 other organizations had submitted a proposal to the government for CIPAD.
“We are excited about the meaning of this announcement to present and future generations of African-Canadians as it amplifies and honours our legacy, perspective and contributions towards building and strengthening this nation. The Canadian Institute for People of African Descent and the intermediary model will enable capacity building in Black communities and further underscores the value of applying a Black lens in addressing the long-term systemic issues that we have faced in this country for generations,” said Charles-Fridal shortly after the announcement made by Vaughan.
Within days of the October 21 federal election, an agreement was signed with Employment and Services Development Canada (ESDC) to begin a feasibility study for the national institute for Black Canadians.
On October 24, the government disbursed the first installment of funds, ($174,000.00), to get the study started.
Charles-Fridal says the feasibility study is underway and they anticipate that it will be completed by late summer “at the end of which there will be a final report that is to be shared with the funder (ESDC) and the public. Because of the pandemic we do not know if we will be able to hold the gathering in person to share the report. If not, it will be done virtually.”
She said CAFCAN and the Jamaican Canadian Association (JCA) would be able to apply for funding for capacity building projects.
“The criteria as to what this process will be is not yet determined. We understand that it will be at least the end of the year before the funds become available. The three named intermediaries do not yet have a contribution agreement with ESDC.”
Asked what the $25M means for CAFCAN and the JCA as organizations, Charles-Fridal said they could secure funding through the $5M capital assist fund.
“Because the focus of this portion of the fund is on infrastructure, we would each or collectively submit an application that could be about brick and mortar enhancement or some other form.”
She noted that with the capacity building amount, the original intent of the intermediary structure was to focus on different priority areas that were determined last year.
“Since we do not yet know what this will look like, it is hard to say. Our hope is that whatever eligibility criteria are established, we would qualify. If I heard the minister correctly, entities (including CAFCAN and JCA) if eligible, could get up to $100,000.00 in funding to be used towards whatever capacity building initiative we have been successful at applying for.
“It is a small amount of funding but could be treated as seed money towards an initiative that is more long term and sustainable. It serves as an opportunity for our organizations to build capacity in an area that we would like to develop.”
She said for some Black-led, Black-serving organizations that could be governance, board recruitment and development, operations, among other things.
The executive director said it will be interesting to see how this all rolls out post-pandemic as the decision to allocate $25M was almost one year ago.
“As you know Black Canadians were already vulnerable before the pandemic. Such is the case for many of Black entities doing meaningful and effective work. I suspect that for those who survive, their applications would look very different now than they would have; meaning that they may more likely be seeking funding support to address the impact that the pandemic has had on their organization,” she said.