With two weeks to go before the Canadian election, the Caribbean Camera spoke to Greg Fergus, Liberal candidate for Hull—Aylmer, Ottawa area, and head of the Black Caucus.
Fergus asserted that the Liberals “are the only political party with policies [stated] in our platform which are directed towards the Black community and they are very impressive.”
Expanding on his claim, Fergus suggested that apart from increasing the funding that the government started to do over the last 5 years, the Liberal party has also started the Black Entrepreneurial Program; implemented the Black-led Philanthropic Endowment Fund, which is a 200-million-dollar fund; while also pursuing economic cooperation across the African continent. Something to which he is looking forward – closer economic ties with Africa.
“ We are making sure that we strengthen our equity targets for federally funded scientific research, which includes $30 million over 5 years to support Black researchers, especially to younger researchers as part of the mentoring program – so we would be looking for promising graduate students including Black Canadians in post-secondary institutions.”
The new Changing Narrative Fund is now up to $50 million, and will empower diverse communities, including Black journalists to provide them with a tool to tell their own stories and to promote their own voices in arts culture and in the media.
The party platform contains a plan to reintroduce the bill to get rid of minimum sentences, which is going to be done before the end of this year. Fergus says that the plan is to stop needlessly incarcerating Black people “for no good reason”. Part of the strategy is to put more money into programs intended to support troubled children “so that they have an off-ramp rather than going through the justice and prison system; we must get them before they are incarcerated because once they’re in it is very difficult to turn their lives around. We cannot continue to do this to Black youth.”
Supporting local organizations that fight racism is crucial. Fergus said that there’s no magic bullet that will address such issues. It requires an integrated and wide ranging approach to deal with the many but connected issues.
In the past it was always one program here, one program there, which proved not as effective as intended. So the plan is to make sure that the correct economic conditions are in place to ensure the success of these programs. So diverse aims such as representation in the public service and elsewhere, justice and public security issues can be dealt with in an integrated fashion while the arts, culture and media voices get heard and receive the funding they deserve.
On the affordable housing front, Fergus said that there is a need to develop disaggregated data in order to identify which communities are benefitting and to better target those in the Black community who need assistance. As an example he says that “on a general level 3.5% of it needs to be going to the Black community but if you start looking at people who are struggling with housing or access to housing Blacks take up a much larger percentage.” That is why effective data gathering is required.
“The Black community was mentioned in the budget with hundreds of millions of dollars targeted towards [that sector]…you saw that in the Fall Economic Statement.”
The complete statement will be placed on thecaribbeancamera.com and blackagenda.ca