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Protesters rally against the death of George Floyd outside the U.S. Embassy in Ottawa, June 5, 2020. In response to recent protests, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has repeatedly pointed to his government’s previous spending promises as signs of progress in addressing racism against Black people.BLAIR GABLE/Reuters

Only a fraction of a $25-million pledge for Black community organizations has been spent, more than a year after the Liberal government announced the funding. ​

The money, announced March, 2019, is earmarked for a new institute for people of African descent and for not-for-profits in the Black community to focus on building capacity in organizations and capital costs.

The government said the cash is being held until negotiations are complete with the intermediary groups that will disburse the funds. A separate stream of money, which will be managed directly by government, will only open for applications when the other funds are also ready.

The planning is in the “final stages," with an announcement coming shortly, said Mike Maka, director of communications for Families, Children and Social Development Minister Ahmed Hussen.

The delays are raising concerns among community organizations, who say they are being treated differently than other groups, and follow other funding promises that are underspent or unaccounted for.

“We have been trying to get this money out for almost a year," said Evelyn Myrie, president of the Afro-Canadian Caribbean Association, adding that the money has been announced more than once.

The government says the money will start rolling out by the end of the year.

The money spent to date, $348,000, went to a feasibility study to decide on a budget and timeline to create the national institute. Mr. Hussen’s office said the study was delayed because of the COVID-19 pandemic, but is expected by August.

In response to the tens of thousands of people protesting against police violence toward racial minorities in the past two weeks, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has repeatedly pointed to his government’s previous spending promises as signs of progress in addressing the racism that Black people face.

“We have made strong efforts over the past years on stepping forward in the right way,” Mr. Trudeau said Monday, adding “it hasn’t been enough.”

The government has promised to spend about $119-million on anti-racism initiatives, multiculturalism programs and support for the Black community over a six-year time frame, starting in 2018. The money is managed by at least six different government departments and offices.

While at least four of the remaining initiatives funded under that total budget have been fully spent or earmarked for future years, another one was underspent. A spokesperson for Bardish Chagger, the Minister for Diversity, Inclusion and Youth, was unable to say what happened to the unspent $2.9-million.

Her office also couldn’t say how much of the $20-million committed for anti-racism programs in the 2019 and 2020 budget years has been spent. The money is supposed to “take immediate steps” to combat racism and discrimination, spokesperson Danielle Keenan said.

In one case, the government is still reviewing applications that were submitted between September and January. Ms. Keenan said the successful applicants will be announced this summer.

Some of the government’s promises were made in recognition of the UN Decade for People of African Descent (UNDPAD), which runs from 2015 to 2024.

The lead member of a Canadian group established to ensure that the government makes good on its promises related to the decade said the slow pace shows that Ottawa is falling short on real action and taking an overly cautious approach.

Richard Sharpe, with the UNDPAD Push Coalition, said the delays demonstrate that the government is putting the Black community through “an extra set of rigour and assessment” before disbursing funds.

“People who don’t look like us are looking at us and saying ‘these people can’t handle money, so we’re going to treat them with extra care,’” he said.

Mr. Sharpe said the message he hears from the community is that “there is a lot of talk about addressing anti-Black racism … but we are still facing the same barriers in rolling out programming that quite frankly other groups are not experiencing.”

His comments were echoed by Floydeen Charles-Fridal, executive director of Caribbean African Canadian Social Services, the group conducting the feasibility study for the institute. While she said the funding for that study was turned around relatively quickly, it was expected that the system to disburse the program money would be in place by now.

While Black community organizations are still waiting to apply for funds under the $25-million program, she noted that the application process for COVID-19 emergency funding for the not-for-profit sector opened within three days of it being announced in May.

“There is a delay responding in a way that makes sense,” Ms. Charles-Fridal said, adding that she supports the government’s intent but wants to see more momentum behind it.

Mr. Sharpe tied the delays to systemic discrimination. A 2017 UN report on anti-Black racism in Canada said that the country’s legacy of slavery and segregation is “so deeply entrenched in institutions, policies and practices," that the racism is "either functionally normalized or rendered invisible, especially to the dominant group.”

Former MP Celina Caesar-Chavannes, who left the Liberal caucus before the fall election to sit as an Independent, said she would give the government’s record to date a “failing grade.”

The money promised was already inadequate, said Ms. Caesar-Chavannes who is now a consultant. She said it marked a good first step, but that first step required second, third and fourth steps.

Montreal-area Liberal MP Emmanuel Dubourg credited Mr. Trudeau’s leadership. For example, he pointed to putting civil-rights icon Viola Desmond on the $10 bill and recognizing the UN decade.

“I’m not going to say enough, he has done some, and it was the first time the Canadian government [made] those actions. But we need more and the Prime Minister also knows that,” Mr. Dubourg said.

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