Northern Ontario Black entrepreneurs bolstered by new program

Chantae Robinson

The Afro-Heritage Association of Sudbury is using a $1.1 million grant from the federal government to set up a program for Black entrepreneurs in the region.

The funding, which came from a $400-million federal program to support Black-led business organizations across the country, will help set up the Northern Ontario Black Economic Empowerment Program.

Chantae Robinson, president of the Afro-Heritage Association of Sudbury and co-founder of the economic program, said the need to support Black business owners in northern Ontario will only grow in the coming years.

“The number of immigrants coming from the African nations and the Caribbean nations is going to be tremendous,” Robinson said.

She said many newcomers to Canada from African and Caribbean countries are starting to settle in smaller communities like Sudbury and Timmins, rather than large urban centres like Toronto and Montreal.

And as that community continues to grow, Robinson said services in northeastern Ontario will need to catch up.

She said, for example, that Jamaicans love food from their country, which could mean more Jamaican restaurants. Or there could be greater demand for hair salons to cater to Black customers looking for particular hairstyles.

Robinson said new university and college graduates from the region will be able to benefit from the program.

“I know that there is so much passion and so much drive in our young people, but they just don’t have any form of mentorship or any form of direction to kind of help them to harness that potential that is within them,” she said.

Charles Nyabeze

Charles Nyabeze, Northern Ontario Black Economic Empowerment Program’s co-founder, said the funds from the federal government will allow them to hire staff, create a website and secure a location.

Nyabeze said one of their first initiatives will be to create $2,000 micro-grants to support Black entrepreneurs.

“What I think is that you’re going to see a more active northern Ontario economy with the infusion of these Black-owned businesses that are going to make a difference,” he said.