The global impact of those of African descent is undeniable, and the stories are as varied and as dynamic as the people themselves. Yet, for all the advancements, culture, and diversity that Black people have brought to Canada and around the world, they remain on the outskirts of vital networks. Anecdotal evidence reflects that Black communities are either excluded or underserved by social systems for health, justice, and economic development. In December 2013, the General Assembly of the United Nations declared 2015 to 2024 the International Decade for People of African Descent. (read more about it on page 12)
At a national level, states were encouraged to implement practical initiatives to combat practices that have stunted the growth and inclusion of Black peoples, with particular attention to areas of justice, recognition, development, and multiple or aggravated discrimination. In 2019, the Government of Canada responded by committing $25 million over five years to the Supporting Black Canadian Communities Initiative (SBCCI).
In alignment with the themes of trust-based philanthropy, SBCCI aims to reduce the red tape for grassroots organizations in accessing funding. More importantly, the framework is designed to recognize those who are on the front lines as the content experts; It allows Black-led and serving organizations autonomy in deciding the areas of critical need and how funds should be used. The Government of Canada website identifies SBCCI's objectives:
To support research and give advice to leaders within a Black Canadian context
Provide funds to improve workplaces and local spaces
Provide funds to build a national web to help Black led not for profit organizations
Provide funds for new priorities for Black Canadians
With a long standing track record of supporting and serving communities of African heritage in western Canada, Africa Center was identified as a fiduciary. The hub was entrusted with $3 million of the SBCCI federal funding and tasked with reviewing, assessing, and awarding grants to organizations and initiatives that align with the fund's purpose. To ensure a national impact however, the Federal Government established partnerships with three other organizations; Black Business Initiative (BBI), Tropicana and Groupe 3737.
Founded in 1996, BBI is a product of a collaboration between the Government of Canada and the Province of Nova Scotia. The organization provides much needed support to Black entrepreneurs and business owners. Also supporting equity initiatives on the east coast is Tropicana. This not for profit has served Toronto’s at-risk youth and their families since 1980. Their programs include counselling, settlement services, childcare, education and employment services, focusing on the Caribbean Black and African communities. The third partner in this effort is Groupe 3737. This organization has made its mark as “the largest and most successful technology incubator/accelerator in the North East of Montréal.” Assessing the wealth of experience and resources between the four intermediaries, it is not difficult to see why they were chosen as fiduciaries for the SBCCI initiative.
INFLUENCING POLICY CHANGE
SBCCI, however, is not limited to injecting funding into Black communities. The conversations around informed and strategic policy changes are also materializing. An External Reference Group has convened under the SBCCI; its members have either led or served in Black organizations. Drawing on both lived experiences and the collective voice of Black communities, the External Reference Group will provide advice to the Minister of Family Children and Social Development. In addition, SBCCI will also house the National Institute for People of African descent. The objectives of the institute, according to the Government of Canada's web publication, include:
inform and influence policy and program development of all orders of government from a Black-centric perspective
undertake applied research, knowledge development, information sharing, stakeholder engagement and network-building
serve to improve social and economic outcomes for Canada's people of African descent and their communities
People of African descent had traversed and contributed to these lands well before Canada herself was born. SBCCI is not a singular fix but can be considered a sure step in a positive direction. Dissecting and rebuilding over 150 years of overtly and subtly discriminatory systems will take much more than a 5-year program. The strengthening of Black communities cannot take place in isolation; this is inherently a Canadian issue and will demand the continued investment of all.