by Ruth Aman
Monday 28 November 2022
On the evening of November 28, 2022, the Liberal Black Caucus gathered with media from the community and hosted a virtual media roundtable. This roundtable was hosted by distinguished and active members of the Canadian government who all share a common vision for Black Canadians in the nation. This roundtable’s focus was the Fall Economic Statement which had just been released early November. With a warm welcome from Hon Arielle Kayabaga, Chair of the Liberal Black Caucus and MP for London-West, the meeting commenced.
Arielle Kayabaga, the first Black woman ever elected as an MP in London, opened the program by stating that the Fall Economic Report is uniquely important to Black Canadians simply because it expands on its reach in supporting minority communities in a number of new ways. She then welcomed fellow hosts Hon Marci Ien, the Minister for Women and Gender Equality and Youth of Canada, Hon Randy Boissonnault, the Minister of Tourism of Canada & Associate Minister of Finance, and later on Hon Michael Coteau, Member of Parliament for Don Valley East.
The Honorable Ien spoke on the numerous funding opportunities available for Black Canadian students. Not only is funding available for new research proposals but there are many scholarships available for Black Scholars as well. Many jobs have been created for youth through the Canada Summer Jobs program and the Youth Employment and Skills Strategy program. And through the government’s new endeavors, many young Canadians are not set at a disadvantage in the housing market thanks to the First-Time Home Buyers Tax Credit and a removal of interest on student and apprenticeship loans. She concluded by saying that the nation is doing what is fiscally responsible meaning and that ‘there is no country better than Canada to weather the global slowdown’.
Minister Boissonnault focused on different aspects of the report. All in all, he said that the government aims to provide support for those who need it first, while also saving money for a ‘rainy day’. He then mentioned the benefits available in clean energy projects and how investing in clean energy will also bring tax credits that benefit all Canadians regardless of their sector. Boissonnault reinforced the fact that the Fall Economic report is for everyone and he hopes that all people regardless of their race, identity, or background can see themselves in it.
MP Kayabaga then opened the forum for all media to propose questions. Many questions circled around the report and the elevating inflation. Dr. Vibe, a Black Canadian community news host, asked what is being done in regards to the increasing gas prices. Minister Boissonault and MP Kayaga both replied that the federal government is putting all their resources into providing reliefs for communities and families in need. Unfortunately, certain reliefs that have been given have not reached all people needing it yet.
Black Ottawa Scene asked about the unemployment rate of Black Canadians. The speakers all noted that while they do not have the data for this question, they are currently working with Statistics Canada to asses it. However, since the pandemic, the government has offered more than 3.5 million jobs and are working with various organizations to support diverse groups in benefitting and accessing these jobs. Yet, it is the role of Black community organizations and businesses to actively search out these roles and apply to the various government programs available. Minister Ien also referred to organizations such as Black Canadian Women in Action and the Black Entreprenuership fund which are available resources and have been successful in providing support to Black Canadians.
The final question proposed by Meres J Weche addressed the new measures concerning the environment and electricity. As those who are low-income are primarily affected by climate change he wondered how the government would support them from feeling the brunt of the impact. MP Coteau responded saying that the government is working on environmentally friendly solutions that will be affordable, especially for Black communities. This means that jobs would be created in the environmental sector and be offered to all Canadians. Therefore they would not only benefit from more employment opportunities but would also be living in a healthier environment. The government proposes doing this by creating ‘green jobs’ in mining and by building more ecologically-conscious homes.
After speaking about the economic report, the discussion changed to the issue of Black media. It is widely known and accepted that correct representation and unbiased information about Black people tends to comes from Black media. As Black media has no other motive but to uplift stories and correct the narratives in wider media, yet more financing and support is needed to continue doing this effectively.
Dr. Vibe expressed that stronger Black media is necessary to control our narratives and protect our history. MP Kayabaga also echoed the need and stated that the Liberal Black Caucus was specifically created with this goal in mind. That being said, they plan to find ways to invest money into having our own stories told in wider media. They also see this roundtable as a way of giving legitimacy to Black media, showing that the government wants to hear their voices and at the same time desires to elevate their voices by creating a space where they can meet with the government directly.
MP Cote also added that shift has taken place within the last ten years, in terms of media production and consumption. Years ago, traditional media and Black print media was especially strong within the nation. Currently, however, the five billion that went to print media goes to online sources of media such as Facebook and Google. This shift has brought new challenges for Black media as they need to access funding more creatively now. Cote stated that it is important for the government to support those working in the media by creating legislation and balancing acts that would allow journalists and media teams to make a decent living wage.
In summary, this roundtable was informative and the speakers were concise in their explanations and proposals. They affirmed the governments standing and demonstrated that the report was for all Canadians. However, a significant omission in the presentation was the effect of previous and current initiatives and plans catering towards the needs of Black Canadians and how successful they have been. This would helped Black media representatives understand what supports were still needed and what gaps needed to be filled. Besides this, the roundtable showed that Black Canadians were very well considered in the decisions and plans being made in the Canadian economy.
Ruth Aman is a Project Officer with Black History Ottawa. She holds a Bachelor of Global and International Studies (Honors) degree, with a specialization in Law and Social Justice from Carleton University.