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Black Entrepreneur Support Announcement: Well Intentioned but not Black and White

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“There shall be maintained in the Department an Indian Register in which shall be recorded the name of every person who is entitled to be registered as an Indian under this Act.”

– Subsection 5(1) of the Indian Act (Canada)

In the tax and business community, we are used to seeing targeted government programs for various groups to provide support. Examples include (but are not limited to) support for:

  • Low income
  • Seniors
  • Students
  • Young families
  • Single parents
  • Northern Residents
  • Farming and Fishing
  • Technology sector
  • Investment in Environment-friendly areas
  • etc.

The above list are described usually by specific definitions of what the terms mean. Age, industry type, geographic location, education status, marital status, dependant status, energy consumption/efficiency, etc.

We occasionally see other support for things like (again, not an all inclusive list)

  • Women in business
  • Small businesses
  • People with Disabilities
  • Indigenous supports

Require a little more clarification of the definitions on gender vs sex, size of business (number of staff, amount of revenue, etc), ownership, disabilities, and of course an example I led with – a definition of ethnic background.

So the recent announcement of creating additional support for “Black Entrepreneurs” while the intent would be to be help those that need it – the definitions are yet to be determined – which is where the problem lies.

I started this article by quoting from legislation called the Indian Act. This legislation is far from perfect, has many problems, not the least of which is the creation of a list of a type of people.

However, as flawed as the legislation is, it has attempted to create a definition of what an Indian (the word defined in Subsection 2(1) of the Indian Act) is.

Canada does not have a “Black Register” or a list of “Black-status” individuals. It does not have a legal definition of the word “Black”.

Now please don’t take things out of context.

I applaud anything that will help small business owners, and hope that this program will work as well. However, with my experience in tax legislation and interpretation I can already see the problems that can arise when layman words are used instead of legally defined terms.

What classifies as a “Black-owned Business” or a “Black Entrepreneur” for this program? This has yet to be defined.

In a country as diverse as Canada, we have many different backgrounds from all over the world living side-by-side in (relative) “peace” (by comparison to other conflict regions in the world).

But what does it mean to be “Black” for the purposes of this program?

Now I know that I am not likely to meet the future legislated definition of what it means to be “Black”. I’m of european descent on both sides, as far back (that I know of), and I’m sure the announcement by the government is not intending for me to get this support as an entrepreneur.

There may be simplicity in those situations that are, like me, of 100% “non-Black descent”. But, like the Indian Act has tried to do – and has been challenged in court for decades – it is not that easy to define someone’s ethnic background.

How do I advise my business-owning client, that has one “Black parent”, and one “White parent”? Do they qualify for the program because they have one “Black parent” – or do they get disqualified because they have one “White parent”?

What about one grandparent?

How far back to we look? Great-Grandparents? Does ancestral place of birth matter? etc.

How will they assess eligibility?

Is it solely based on skin pigment? How would that be fair to those that may otherwise meet the criteria, but don’t look “Black”?

Will there be blood tests?

I know you are thinking to yourself, ‘Cory, that’s pretty extreme’ … you’re right and that is my point.

I really do want this program to succeed, and I will help my clients that qualify for it to get it, but do you have a concrete suggestion for how to define what “Black” actually means for this program?

Every government program has the devil in the details, and without a clear definition of what a “Black Entrepreneur” is, we can expect the administrators and financial institutions implementing such a program to be in a nightmare from the beginning.

We’ve already seen the problems with the Canada Emergency Business Account (CEBA) when they expanded the program but went away from defined terms like amount of 2019 payroll, and moved towards subjective terms like “non-deferrable expenses”.

When you open things up to subjective interpretation, things become less clear and you end up with a lot of “grey area” as a layer of complexity not wanted.

The Indian Act has been around since 1876 as a combining of the Gradual Civilization Act (1857) and the Gradual Enfranchisement Act (1869).

Scholars more intelligent than myself have battled with this flawed piece of legislation but this is the closest we have in Canada to a prior government attempt to define a race of people.

I want support for entrepreneurs that need it, however when my client asks me on whether or not they qualify for this vague announcement I want to be able to give them a simple “Black” or “White” answer.

Note: I used “quotation marks” throughout this commentary to emphasize the lack of a standard legal definition for any of these terms.

Cory G. Litzenberger, CPA, CMA, CFP, C.Mgr is the founder of CGL Strategic Business & Tax Advisors (CGLtax.ca). Cory is an advocate for small business; converts legislation into layman terms; and provides Canadian tax advisory services to other CPA firms and their clients across Canada.

Biography of Cory G. Litzenberger, CPA, CMA, CFP, C.Mgr can be found here.

CEO | Director, Canadian Tax Advisory CGL Strategic Business & Tax Advisors With the Income Tax Act always by his side on his smart-phone, Cory has taken tax-nerd to a whole other level. His background in strategic planning, tax-efficient corporate reorganizations, business management, and financial planning bring a well-rounded approach to assist private corporations and their owners increase their wealth through the strategies that work best for them. An entrepreneur himself, Cory started CGL with the idea that he wanted to help clients adapt to the ever-changing tax and economic environment and increase their wealth through optimizing the use of tax legislation coupled with strategic business planning and financial analysis. His relaxed blue-collar approach in a traditionally white-collar industry can raise a few eyebrows, but in his own words: “People don’t pay me for my looks. My modeling career ended at birth.” More info: https://www.CGLtax.ca/Litzenberger-Cory.html

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#RedDeerStrong

Former student lovingly remembered by classmates

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From Red Deer Catholic Regional Schools

A former Father Henri Voisin School student, Julie Burke, was lovingly remembered today through an outdoor blessing and dedication ceremony.

The Julie Burke Memorial Bench was unveiled to the Father Henri Voisin School community and blessed by Father Jan. Julie’s family, division senior administration and Grade 5 student leaders were in attendance in a socially distanced manner.

The memorial bench will be a friendship bench for students.

Julie’s former Grade 4 teacher, Jessica Maloughney, fondly remembers Julie as a girl who was full of kindness and bravery, despite her illness, and says that the bench will, “be a symbol of Julie’s love and bravery. Even though Julianna is no longer here with us, she lives on in all of our hearts. When a student is brave enough to sit on the bench, waiting for a friend – Julie will be there with them. When one of you sees someone sitting on this bench, and invites them to play – Julie will be with you too.”

Father Henri Voisin School Principal, Jeff Tuchscherer, added, “we feel extremely blessed and privileged to have been provided this bench by the Burke family. It will honour Julie’s memory and provide a powerful reminder of the value of friendship, as well as the importance of bravery. Present and future students will vastly benefit from this legacy of a child that lived her life with steadfast love in her heart for all.”

The Julie Burke Memorial Bench faces the school playground and will serve as a reminder to all the students at Father Henri Voisin School that nothing is more important than friendship and kindness, just like Julie believed.

Father Henri Voisin School serves over 385 Pre-Kindergarten – Grade 5 students in Red Deer. As a learning institution, Father Henri Voisin School is committed to serving students with a complete offering of learning opportunities delivered within the context of Catholic teachings.

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Alberta

Alberta RCMP investigating after far-right groups confront anti-racism rally-goers

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RED DEER, Alta. — RCMP in Alberta say they are investigating after an anti-racism rally in Red Deer turned violent on the weekend.

News footage from CityTV Edmonton shows counter-protesters shoving demonstrators who had gathered to denounce racism, but no RCMP officers are seen intervening.

Alberta Justice Minister Kaycee Madu says violence and threats of violence are unacceptable and he has urged the RCMP’s commanding officer in Alberta to get to the bottom of what happened.

Madu says the Mounties have told him they weren’t there for the initial confrontation because protest organizers changed the location of the rally at the last minute.

Kisha Daniels, a co-founder of Black and Indigenous Alliance AB says the RCMP was well-aware of the location change, which was made in response to threats from white supremacist groups.

Daniels says she had been planning to speak at the rally about education and anti-blackness, but the event was interrupted by Yellow Vesters, Soldiers of Odin and other groups honking their horns, blaring sirens and yelling.

She calls what happened traumatizing and says so far the RCMP has not reached out, even though she has footage and other information to contribute to any investigation.

RCMP said in a news release Monday that there was a disturbance as the anti-racism groups were setting up the rally on Sunday.

“Red Deer RCMP were aware of the planned demonstration and had prepared to have adequate resources and specially equipped officers at the event to handle any potential risks to public safety,” the news release said.

“After arriving on scene, members became aware of the alleged assault, were able to de-escalate the situation between the two groups, and spoke with the victim.”

The RCMP said a “second incident,” which they did not explain in the news release, was brought to their attention a day later and they are asking any witnesses to come forward.

“The Red Deer RCMP take this matter very seriously,” Supt. Gerald Grobmeier said in a statement.

“The role of the RCMP at demonstrations is to keep the peace and allow individuals their democratic right to gather. The matter remains under investigation.”

By Lauren Krugel in Calgary

This report by The Canadian Press was first published September 22, 2020.

The Canadian Press

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