By Angelyn Francis, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Toronto Star
As the 2021 Canadian federal budget is drafted, the Foundation for Black Communities (FFBC) has submitted a proposal to have money set aside for Black-led charities.
During an open call for prebudget recommendations from the Department of Finance, the foundation submitted a proposal for the federal government to allot $200 million to FFBC, to kick start an endowment.
The organization plans to supplement it by raising $100 million from the private and philanthropic sector, and with an endowment model, be able to provide sustainable resources to Black community organizations.
Working group member Liban Abokor said he hopes their proposal will be considered, especially with the rise in commitment to support Black Canadians and anti-racism efforts.
“If we think about Canada’s plan to build back better, (we want to ensure) that includes Black communities,” said Abokor.
In addition to funding anti-racism efforts through a four-year plan, much of the funding provided to support Black Canadians federally has been for business and entrepreneurship loans. Just over $220 million was earmarked by Ottawa and financial institutions to offer business loans to the Black community.
Abokor acknowledged that what has been done so far are important steps, but “I think there’s additional investments needed,” Abokor said.
There have also been some hiccups fulfilling the federal government’s current offers. Recently, hundreds of Black-led groups were denied Black community initiative funding by Employment and Social Development Canada, with a response that the groups were not sufficiently Black-led.
The Foundation for Black Communities was founded by Abokor and other Black people involved in the philanthropic and charitable sector to provide a foundation dedicated to empowering Black-led and Black-focused non-profit organizations.
A report it authored late last year found that Black-led charities and non-profit organizations have been getting the short end of the stick when it comes to funding.
It found that for every $100 of grant funds dispensed by 15 of the leading foundations in Canada, only 30 cents go to Black community organizations.
Social worker Ken Williams has seen the way funding models can be a barrier to effectively serving Black communities. Grants and funding are often provided on a project-by-project basis, which can be unstable.
“Young people’s lives don’t work in a one-year cycle or a three-year cycle … a lot of times, you know, you need supports that are ongoing,” Williams said.
Williams also said that it can take time for groups to get running, build community connections and “a lot of the times … the funding doesn’t actually assist in that process.”
FFBC plans to remove some of these barriers to make funding more accessible to grassroots organizations.
The lack of diversity in charitable leadership is significant in Canada.
Last month, a Statistics Canada survey revealed that there is a “diversity deficit” among board members in Canadian charities and not-for-profit organizations, even though government funding and public donations are their main source of revenue.
Sen. Ratna Omidvar of Ontario challenged the sector to begin keeping demographic data after the racial uproar that began last summer.
With the impact the COVID-19 pandemic has had on the country, the 2021 budget will be vital to planning an effective recovery.
A Department of Finance official reiterated that the government acknowledges that systemic racism is an issue in Canada and these communities have been disproportionately affected by the pandemic.
Abokor has seen how local groups have pivoted to support racialized communities, and how needed they will be in the recovery.
Who is going to help Black youth who have had their education upended over the past year? Or help women who have disproportionately lost work re-enter the job market? Or support seniors who have had to stay home more out of caution, he asks.
“Without investment in Black-led, community organizations, those services aren’t going to be available,” Abokor said. “And if they’re not available … then I think we should be worried about our community being left in actually a worse off position than we were prior to this pandemic.”