Minister of Families, Children and Social Development Ahmed Hussen takes part in an update on the COVID pandemic during a press conference in Ottawa on Tuesday, Oct. 27, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Sean Kilpatrick

Minister of Families, Children and Social Development Ahmed Hussen takes part in an update on the COVID pandemic during a press conference in Ottawa on Tuesday, Oct. 27, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Sean Kilpatrick

Rejection letter agency sent to Black organizations ‘completely unacceptable’: Hussen

Social Development Minister Ahmed Hussen says he demanded a retraction as soon as he saw it

Several Black organizations were denied federal funding through a program designed to help such groups build capacity — after Employment and Social Development Canada told them their leadership was not sufficiently Black.

Velma Morgan, the chair of Operation Black Vote, said her group received an email from the department on Tuesday saying their application did not show “the organization is led and governed by people who self-identify as Black.”

The department sent a second email the next day, saying their applications were not approved because it did not receive “the information required to move forward,” she said.

“As if we’re incompetent or foolish and we’re going to believe the second email over the original email,” Morgan said in an interview with The Canadian Press.

She said Operation Black Vote, a not-for-profit, multi-partisan organization that aims to get more Black people elected at all levels of government, is one of at least five Black organizations that were not approved for funding.

The program, called the Supporting Black Canadian Communities Initiative, provides funding to Canadian Black-led non-profit and charitable organizations to help them build capacity. The applications guidelines say at least two-thirds of the leadership and the governance structure must be people who self-identify as Black. The mandate of the organization must also be focused on serving Black communities.

Morgan said everyone on her team is Black. She also said the other organizations she knows about should also not have been rejected for the reason outlined in the first letter.

“If you’re from the Black community, you know that they’re Black-run and Black-focused,” she said.

Social Development Minister Ahmed Hussen said the initial letter his department sent to unsuccessful applicants was “completely unacceptable” and that he demanded a retraction as soon as he saw it.

In a thread on Twitter Thursday night, Hussen said he discussed with his department’s officials how such a mistake could have happened and implemented measures to make sure it does not happen again.

“I will continue to work with Black Canadian organizations to improve our systems,” said Hussen, who also mentioned the systemic barriers he has faced as Black person.

The department did not respond Friday to questions about why this happened and what officials plan to do next.

Morgan said the Liberal government should hire more Black people to sit at every decision-making table.

“This is an example of what happens when we don’t have representation,” Morgan said.

The Ontario Black History Society, a registered charity dedicated to study, preservation and promotion of Black history and heritage, is one of the groups that received both letters and had its application rejected. In an emailed statement, the organization said ESDC did not provide any reasons for why they were declined outside the two letters.

Former MP Celina Caesar-Chavannes, who left the Liberal caucus several months before the 2019 election to sit as an Independent, said many of the organizations she knows did not receive funding do not want to say anything publicly. She said they are worried speaking out will lead to the government denying them other funding chances.

“Why should these organizations be afraid of trying to speak up when something goes wrong?” said Caesar-Chavannes, who posted copies of the ESDC letters to Twitter after receiving them from the organizations that had received them.

“That’s the problem with how the government operates.”

Morgan said the letter also came after months of waiting, as her organization applied to get support to purchase equipment and retrofit its facilities in June. She said organizations were told they would get an answer in September but did not hear back until this week when they received the first letter.

“We hardly get any money from the government at all,” she said, while adding the rejection will not affect her group’s ability to operate.

“There are organizations that work with the most vulnerable in our community in terms of mental health or poverty, and those are the kinds of organizations that need the capacity funding.”

Caesar-Chavannes said that the number of organizations that contacted her has grown since she posted about the issue on Twitter.

“It’s dehumanizing that we have to keep proving (our Blackness.) How many different hurdles that we have to jump through?” she said.

Maan Alhmidi, The Canadian Press

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Want to support local journalism? Make a donation here.

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Island Health chief medical officer Dr. Richard Stanwick receives a first dose of Pfizer vaccine, Dec. 22, 2020. (B.C. government)
COVID-19: B.C. seniors aged 90+ can start to sign up for vaccination on March 8

Long-term care residents protected by shots already given

The Majagaleehl Gali Aks Elementary School in Hazelton is being shut down for a week by the Gitanmaax Band Council following a confirmation of a COVID-19 exposure there on Feb. 26. (Black Press Media File Photo)
COVID-19 exposure notice shuts down Hazelton school

Closure to last for one week and school is to be sanitized

Dave Livesey, right, has been elected as Telkwa councillor defeating Klaus Kraft (middle) and Erik Jacobsen. (Interior News composite photo)
Dave Livesey elected to Telkwa council

Livesey received 60 votes to Klaus Kraft’s 51 and Erik Jacobsen’s 34 in preliminary results

Smithers Local Health Area reported just one new case of COVID-19 from Feb. 14-20. (BC CDC graphic)
Local weekly COVID infections drop to one

The Smithers Local Health Area (Houston to Witset) reported a single case between Feb. 14 and20

A health care worker prepares to test a Coastal GasLink field worker for COVID-19. (Coastal GasLink photo)
Coastal GasLink begins COVID screening of pipeline workers

Construction is once again ramping up following Northern Health approval of COVID management plan

Langley resident Carrie MacKay shared a video showing how stairs are a challenge after spending weeks in hospital battling COVID-19 (Special to Langley Advance Times)
VIDEO: Stairs a challenge for B.C. woman who chronicled COVID-19 battle

‘I can now walk for six (to) 10 minutes a day’

Provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry updates B.C.’s coronavirus situation, May 8, 2020. (B.C. government photo)
B.C.’s weekend COVID-19 cases: 532 Saturday, 508 Sunday, 438 Monday

Fraser Health still has most, eight more coronavirus deaths

B.C. Attorney General David Eby speaks in the legislature, Dec. 7, 2020. Eby was given responsibility for housing after the October 2020 provincial election. (Hansard TV)
B.C. extends COVID-19 rent freeze again, to the end of 2021

‘Renoviction’ rules tightened, rent capped to inflation in 2022

Cannabis bought in British Columbia (Ashley Wadhwani/Black Press Media)
Is it time to start thinking about greener ways to package cannabis?

Packaging suppliers are still figuring eco-friendly and affordable packaging options that fit the mandates of Cannabis Regulations

Face mask hangs from a rear-view mirror. (Black Press image)
B.C. CDC unveils guide on how to carpool during the pandemic

Wearing masks, keeping windows open key to slowing the spread of COVID-19

Churches, including Langley’s Riverside Calvary Church, are challenging the regulations barring them from holding in-person worship services during COVID-19. (Langley Advance Times file)
Det. Sgt. Jim Callender. (Hamilton Police Service screenshot)
B.C. man dead, woman seriously injured after shooting in Hamilton, Ont.

The man was in the process of moving to the greater Toronto area, police say

(Black Press file photo)
Child in critical condition, homicide investigators probe incident near Agassiz

The child was transported to hospital but is not expected to survive

Most Read