Every February, during Black History Month, Canadians celebrate the significant contributions that Black communities have made—and continue to make—to the cultural, economic, social, scientific, and political landscape in Canada.
While this year’s celebrations were held virtually, they were no less significant. Throughout February, the Honourable Bardish Chagger, Minister of Diversity and Inclusion and Youth, participated in 30 virtual events with members of many Black communities across Canada, including all three territories. Some of the events included:
Black History Month Celebrations with Miramichi Afro Connection Inc. of New Brunswick;
Roundtable “Model and TRANSmission: The Knowledge and Talents of Black Trans Women” organized by Fondation Massimadi of Montréal;
Speaking with Connecture Canada about their work with Black Francophone immigrants;
Community roundtable on issues affecting Black Women in Edmonton; and;
The Nunavut Black History Society’s Sankofa Awards Ceremony.
Minister Chagger was also one of several speakers in the Federal Black Youth Forum, “The Future is Now” on February 23, hosted by the Anti-Racism Secretariat. Black youth from across the country met virtually with Black leaders, federal ministers, and parliamentary secretaries to share their lived realities and outline their recommendations on designing and delivering policies and programs that combat systemic anti-Black racism and support Black youth reach their full potential and contribute meaningfully to all aspects of society.
Black History Month celebrations were capped off with a national virtual celebration. On February 28, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, Minister Chagger, and the Honourable Ahmed Hussen, Minister of Families, Children and Social Development, joined the Honourable Jean Augustine, the first Black woman to be elected as a Member of Parliament and named a federal cabinet minister in Canada, to celebrate and recognize the transformative work that Black communities, including youth, health care and essential workers, and many others, are doing right now. The event featured talented artists as well as tributes and interviews with influential Black figures from across Canada.
While Black History Month 2021 has come to an end, the work and acknowledgments should continue each day. We all have a responsibility to continue recognizing the ways Black communities contribute to the inclusive, diverse, and prosperous Canada we know, and to speak up and take action in each of the spaces we occupy to combat systemic anti-Black racism to build the consciously more inclusive Canada we desire, one that is informed by Black lived experiences—because the future is now.
“We have benefitted, and continue to benefit, from the many great contributions of Black communities in Canada for more than 400 years, since well before Confederation. Black History Month reminds us that we stand on the shoulders of giants and that we owe it to them, and ourselves, to continue efforts to combat systemic anti-Black racism. This past month has provided many opportunities to learn from, celebrate, and recognize Black communities from coast to coast to coast. I encourage everyone to keep doing this all year long. Together, we can build the future we all want to see now. Together, we can build a stronger and consciously more inclusive Canada.”
—The Honourable Bardish Chagger, Minister of Diversity and Inclusion and Youth
“Black History Month 2021 was a great celebration. However, in the context of the brutal events of 2020—the killings of Black and Indigenous peoples in Canada and abroad, the crippling toll of the pandemic on the health and economic well-being of Black Canadians, the unacceptable online hate directed toward our communities—it is clear that our work must continue every day beyond February. The future entirely depends on what we do now. Canadians of all races and backgrounds have shown that they want to be an active part of the solution. They want an end to anti-Black racism and discrimination and hate in all its forms. Let’s show the world how it is done. Let’s work together to make the future brighter for Black Canadians and all people in our great country.”
—Greg Fergus, Chair of the Parliamentary Black Caucus, Parliamentary Secretary to the President of the Treasury Board, and Member of Parliament (Hull-Aylmer)
The Government of Canada celebrated the 25th anniversary of the first national declaration of Black History Month, a milestone achieved thanks to the efforts of the Honourable Jean Augustine, the first Black female member of Parliament and first Black female federal minister.
In September 2020, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau announced nearly $221 million to launch Canada’s first-ever Black Entrepreneurship Program to help thousands of Black business owners recover from the COVID-19 pandemic.
In October 2020, Minister Chagger announced that the Government of Canada is providing $15 million for 85 anti-racism projects across the country through the Anti-Racism Action Program. This program addresses barriers to employment, justice, and social participation among Indigenous Peoples, racialized communities, and religious minorities.
In the Fall Economic Statement 2020, the Government of Canada announced an additional $50 million over two years for the Community Support, Multicultural and Anti-Racism Initiatives, the Anti-Racism Action Program, and the Anti-Racism Secretariat.
The Community Support, Multiculturalism, and Anti-Racism Initiatives Program is composed of three funding components: Projects, Community Capacity Building, and Events, which support local, regional, and national initiatives and outcomes-based activities to address racism and discrimination.
In December 2020, the Honourable Navdeep Bains, former Minister of Innovation, Science and Industry, announced a $33-million investment in the 50-30 Challenge, including for the development of tools and resources to help participating organizations advance diversity and inclusion in workplaces across Canada.
In February 2021, the Honourable David Lametti, Minister of Justice and Attorney General of Canada, introduced proposed amendments to the Criminal Code and the Controlled Drugs and Substances Act. These proposed changes would reform sentencing measures for certain offences, including by repealing some of the mandatory minimum penalties of imprisonment that contribute to higher rates of imprisonment and disproportionately affect Indigenous peoples and Black Canadians.
In February 2021, the Honourable Mary Ng, Minister of Small Business, Export Promotion and International Trade, provided an update on the Black Entrepreneurship Program’s third pillar, the Black Entrepreneurship Loan Fund. Minister Ng highlighted that the loan fund will begin accepting applications in May and announced that the government’s investment in the fund will be administered by the Federation of African-Canadian Economics (F.A.C.E.), a federally incorporated not-for-profit organization. The founding organizations of F.A.C.E. co-designed the fund in partnership with the government and participating financial institutions.