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White Taxpayers Pay for Special Racist Grants to Black Businesses but Some Businesses Aren’t Black Enough!!

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Ottawa tells hundreds of applicants they’re not Black enough for money from the Black community initiative

Alex Ballingall January 15, 2021

That’s what Velma Morgan was told in an email this week from Employment and Social Development Canada, which rejected her organization’s application for funding under a program for Black community groups. The reason: the organization either isn’t led by enough Black people or didn’t prove that it is.

Operation Black Vote was one of about 400 organizations the government says it rejected for that reason.

Morgan, a Black woman who is chair of the board that is “100 per cent” Black for an organization that promotes the election of more Black people, was flummoxed.

“All you have to do is Google us or even go onto our website, and you’ll see that everything on there is Black. The board is Black. The advisers are Black. The founders are Black. It doesn’t take much to realize that our organization is Black,” she said.

“I just thought it was ridiculous.”

The email sent to the rejected organizations — a version was posted online by a former Liberal MP and confirmed by the employment minister’s office — stated their applications didn’t meet the Black leadership criteria or were “insufficient to clearly demonstrate that the organization is led and governed by people who self-identify as Black.”

In a series of posts on Twitter Thursday night, Employment and Social Development Minister Ahmed Hussen said “the letter recently sent by my department to unsuccessful applicants was completely unacceptable.”

Hussen said he “quickly demanded a retraction and met with my officials to discuss how such a mistake could have happened,” and to ensure it does not happen again.

The department did not respond to questions from the Star before deadline.

The minister’s office, meanwhile, declined to comment further on Friday. But an official who agreed to speak without being named said Hussen is “very disappointed” and “furious,” and that the minister’s office did not see the rejection letter before his department sent it to about 400 applicants this week.

The government deemed organizations to be sufficiently “Black-led” if at least two-thirds of their board members and senior leadership identify as Black, the official said. The program awarded 90 applicants up to $7 million this week to grow their operations through renovations and the purchase of equipment. The government also appointed three external organizations — Tropicana Community Services, the Black Business Initiative and Groupe 3737 — to disperse another $2.6 million “to support grassroots organizations serving Black communities across Canada.”

Morgan said her organization met this required threshold and ticked a box saying so on its application. But she said they still received the rejection email on Tuesday that said they did not demonstrate they were sufficiently Black led. Then they received a second email the next day telling them to “disregard” the first one, but that their application was still being rejected, Morgan said.

“They really think that we’re foolish,” she said. “This is unreal.”

Celina Caesar-Chavannes, the former Liberal MP for Whitby who quit the party in 2019 amidst the SNC-Lavalin scandal, posted the rejection letter on Twitter after hearing from organizations whose applications were denied this week. In an interview with the Star, Chavannes said Hussen’s response angered her because the minister prefaced his acknowledgment of the problem with several paragraphs describing efforts by himself and the government to support the Black community.

“If you think I am upset about this — I am livid. Because I am tired of this government in particular pandering to Black communities, using us when they need to take photo ops and take a knee in the middle of a f–ing crowd, and then when they get back up, telling us that we’re not Black enough to give us a little piece of the pennies that they’re giving us in the first Goddamn place,” she told the Star.

Caesar-Chavannes was referring to how Prime Minister Justin Trudeau joined a demonstration last summer and took a knee in the crowd, a signal of solidarity with those calling for action against police brutality and racism amidst a global movement sparked by the police killing of George Floyd in Minnesota last year.

Matthew Green, an NDP MP from Hamilton who is a member of the Parliamentary Black Caucus in Ottawa, said it is clear that the demand for the community initiative “far surpasses” the money the Liberal government was willing to spend on it. He said the department should have decided to increase the funding, rather than to set an “arbitrary means test of Blackness” that ended up cutting out hundreds of applicants.

“What this is about for me is a direct reflection of the problems that the federal government has in the lack of cultural competency,” Green said.

He pointed to a class-action lawsuit launched in December on behalf of Black federal employees seeking $900 million in damages for systemic racism experienced in the public service.

“It’s not disconnected from what we’re facing here,” he said, calling for more diversity in the public service, which he said may have prevented the rejection letters from being sent.

“It’s pretty clear that whomever signed off on this… that they lack the type of cultural competency to better explain the required eligibility criteria,” he said.

Federal statistics show that of a total workforce of 287,983 in 2019, 34,004 federal public service employees identified as visible minorities, including 6,468 who were Black. That’s up from 28,058 who identified as visible minorities — 5,218 who were Black — in 2017, when the total workforce numbered 262,969.