Dear Minister Hussen, March 23, 2020

During this coronavirus crisis, the United Nations Decade of People of African Descent (UNDPAD) Push Coalition wishes you, your family and your team continued good health.

We appreciate you taking the time to meet with African/ Black community leaders this past Saturday. Following our meeting, we hosted a national online conversation which was attended by over 400 participants. All participants reiterated the same urgent concern that we expressed to you and your team on March 21st that the Coronavirus pandemic will have a devastating and disproportional impact on our Black communities. Furthermore many groups are left out of the existing measures announced in the new stimulus package. The glaring gaps include non-profits and faith based groups which are the major community service providers. We face the very real possibility that some of these organizations that provide crucial supports in our communities will disappear as they did in 2008-2009 when federal funding was cut. It also includes small businesses, which the Business Development Bank states have not been served adequately by banking institutions. These groups form the backbone of the current supports in the Black communities and they are not included in the government’s stimulus package. Canada is a signatory to the UN Decade for People of African Descent (UNDPAD) which obligates the government to take positive and special measures in support of African, Caribbean and Black citizens of this country.

According to Statistics Canada, twenty percent of Canada’s Black population are low income. The Homeless Hub Survey shows that 28.2% of those experiencing homelessness are members of racialized groups. Frankly, low income people cannot afford to buy food in advance to store during the government requested isolation period and they need emergency support. They cannot afford to be off work even though their children are out of school. For the Black community, it will be a choice between buying food or paying rent which puts them now at risk for increased homelessness. This is now a dire and urgent need for Black Communities. Though mortgage supports are included, renters are left out.

On March 21, you spoke about the Black Lens being critical. You agreed that we were among the most vulnerable, and you indicated we could send you our ideas on how best to respond to this challenge. With respect to the $50B emergency fund, we are asking that mechanisms be put in place to ensure a Black Lens is factored in and is being applied in the distribution of those funds. Later the same evening as our conversation, we engaged with over 400 participants through an online conversation on the impacts of COVID 19 on our Black communities. Their concerns reiterated the need for collective action now.

To that end, we call on the Government to:

  1. Ensure that the UNDPAD criteria (Black Lens) is applied to all funds. The UNDPAD Push Coalition and its partners are ready to help define this criteria;
  2. Ensure that the UNDPAD criteria is in the contribution agreements of Intermediaries who will distribute the funds and that they include a mechanism/infrastructure that includes the application of an UNDPAD Lens by reviewing all policies, initiatives and funds through this lens. For example the YWCA or other social entities. YMCA use UNDPAD positive measure in evaluation of sub-grantees;
  3. In the contribution agreements of Intermediaries who will distribute these funds include a mechanism/infrastructure that includes the application of an UNDPAD Lens by reviewing all policies, initiatives and funds distribution through this lens; and
  4. Ensure that the federal departments and intermediaries distributing funds have a mechanism for maintaining a line of sight on the UNDPAD goals. This includes building in the necessary accountabilities and reporting to communities and to help measure results.
    Ensure the organizations with capital projects ready to roll out with the intent to positively impact economic development in Black communities receive the necessary funding, immediately.

We are calling for funds also to be earmarked to provide additional supports for Black communities who are not a focus in the current stimulus package, including the non-profit, faith based and small businesses sectors. The following are the priority areas shared with us by the communities for COVID 19 funding support:

  • Information dissemination portal or mechanism for the sharing and tailoring of information. For example, sharing the how-to’s of community response to COVID 19 in a multilingual format throughout the communities; Build sector capacity to respond to this health crisis through emergency funding support for Black community social services organizations.
  •  Income support for Food & Shelter for Individuals, Families and Workers who are largely renters. Immediate rental support through above mentioned intermediaries or other mechanism;
  • Non-profit and Faith based sector support, currently facing increased operational costs, demand for new COVID 19 related services and reduced funding as a result of this crisis. Support business continuity and recovery within this new global context. Establish a $50M emergency social sector fund to support service in areas such as mental health, seniors, youth addiction, trauma in Black communities; and

Micro-enterprise and small business supports for losses being incurred as a result of COVID 19.
o $30M for losses associated with operational costs, rents, liquidity for inventory, protection from lenders and creditors.
o Support through federal procurement opportunities in the form of Black business low dollar contracts.
o Capital Assist initiative to support infrastructure and refit
o Create a Black Business Community Hub for Black businesses to serve as an information resource for all stakeholders.

Our country faces an unprecedented health and economic crisis and we call on the government to be inclusive of and provide relief for these groups of Canadians. The UNDPAD Push Coalition, an organization of over 120 organizations, thought leaders and persons of influence in the Black Communities across Canada, calls on the Government of Canada to extend our helping hands to those who are among the most marginalized.

We appreciate your support and look forward to hearing from you regarding this request and working with your Department to make this a reality for Canada’s People of African Descent.

Nadine Spencer
on behalf of the
UNDPAD Push Coalition

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