Thank you very much.
Good morning, Mr. Chairman. And good morning, members of Parliament of the House of Commons Standing Committee on Human Resources, Skills and Social Development and the Status of Persons with Disabilities.
My name is Trevor David. I'm president of AfriCana Village and Museum, a proposed for-profit/non-profit social purpose enterprise community and economic development initiative created to develop an African-Canadian-Caribbean cultural heritage tourism entertainment destination on the waterfront of the greater Toronto area.
This will create 2,000 cultural jobs and thousands more in spin-off jobs. Our goal is to create an economic engine and a wealth generator for the African-Canadian community.
Before I commence my submission, I would like to take this opportunity to thank you and your colleagues again for the opportunity to share with you some of the social purpose and market-driven solutions and business concepts we have developed to address the 400-year history and sad state of affairs of the African Canadian community 400 years after our history books tell us that Matthew Da Costa was the guy who interpreted for Samuel de Champlain in 1603-1604. So it's been quite a while, and we're hoping today to maybe take a step in the right direction.
In my submission, I would first like to answer the following questions: Can current federal resources for reducing poverty be deployed more effectively? If so, how? What additional federal resources are needed for reducing poverty in Canada? What sources of funding are available to pay for these additional resources?
And, second, what strategies and solutions is our organization proposing to reduce poverty?
In the U.K., they've had the same issue with unemployment among marginalized communities. Over the past 10 years, they have made significant progress in utilizing social enterprise as part of the solution. As a matter of fact, they have created an entire new ministry called the Office of the Third Sector, a dedicated body with its own minister. The U.K. government recently released a new report called Third Sector Strategy for Communities and Local Government , in which they have linked the Department for Culture, Media and Sport and tourism with their third-sector strategy initiatives. Their mission statement reads:
We aim to improve the quality of life for all through cultural and sporting activities, to support the pursuit of excellence and to champion the tourism, creative and leisure industries.
So as you can see, the U.K., which has made some strides in addressing poverty, has used social enterprise. They have actually created a third sector to address some of these issues, and they have actually linked that to the cultural and tourism industries.
We had no knowledge they were doing that in the U.K., but when the concept of AfriCana Village came to us about four or five years ago, we thought if we could take what is basically the only natural resource the black community has, the cultural sector and the entertainment sector, and leverage that into a social enterprise to create jobs, we might make an impact in addressing some of the issues confronting us.
For instance, we believe that Infrastructure Canada's Building Canada Fund can be deployed in more constructive and innovative ways to address poverty among marginalized groups and communities. We know that the Building Canada Fund specifically calls for urban tourism projects. AfriCana Village fits right into that niche. Highways and urban tourism infrastructure are two of the things the federal government has been looking at with the Building Canada Fund. Urban tourism, that's what AfriCana Village is.
As is done in the U.K., we believe that Canada should consider using unclaimed funds from dormant bank accounts to fund social enterprises and macroeconomic projects. As far as I understand, tens of millions of dollars are left every year in banks as unclaimed funds, and I believe they go back into the treasury. Well, in the U.K., what they have done is to use these funds to fund social enterprises and help lift up marginalized groups and get them working and paying taxes. That may be something the standing committee would want to take a look at, in terms of being innovative and creative.
Also, on the issue of pension funds, in California there is the California Public Employees' Retirement System, CalPERS. I know you may not have input in this area, but you may want to give some consideration to it. Some of the large pension funds in the U.S. allocate half a per cent or a quarter of a per cent of the fund for urban tourism development projects in marginalized communities. You have trillions of dollars of funds locked up, and that's another way to use it to good purpose. We're not talking about risking the majority of the funds. Maybe half a per cent or a quarter of a per cent is used to stimulate economic activity and to create economic engines and wealth generators in marginalized communities.
Also, just quickly, in the event that Canada, Ontario, and the GTA are successful in the bid for the 2015 Pan-Am Games, we believe it's an excellent opportunity for us to showcase to the world what kind of country we really are. Most of these countries that take part in the Pan-Am Games are from the Caribbean and so forth. Wouldn't it be a wonderful display for us to use some of this Pan-Am Games money and for the government to grant us maybe 40 acres of waterfront land?
Do you know that the federal government owns thousands of acres of waterfront properties in the Golden Horseshoe area? Why not allocate us 40 acres, “40 acres and a mule”? Well, keep the mule, but why not grant us 40 acres towards creating some kind of a destination, some kind of place where the African Canadian community can create some kind of Disneyland of Afrocentric art, music, and culture, a sort of year-round Caribana on the waterfront? There again is the stimulus, something that will kickstart the creation of wealth that can then be used to fund other projects in the community for young entrepreneurs and for scholarships and so forth.
We have a number of ways to address this issue. I'll just quickly wrap it up by saying that we also believe the Employment Equity Act should be strengthened in order to create jobs and to make sure that African Canadians and other visible minority groups get their fair share of jobs. We know that the government, with this stimulus package, is giving billions of dollars, but is there anything in place to make sure that some of the wealth is spread around a little bit?
I remember when the SkyDome was being built here in Toronto. It cost $800 million. You know, we are taxpayers here in the city. I checked with the Carpenters' Union and found out that there were only two black persons who worked on the SkyDome, two out of the thousands of workers who were utilized on the SkyDome. Our tax dollars went into it. We pay taxes, right? Only two African Canadians worked on the SkyDome. Those were taxpayers' dollars. It was our tax dollars that went into building this edifice that was later sold for $25 million to Rogers.
There again, it's about being inclusive. I'm not here to talk about the past. I'm really talking about solutions for the future. I'm talking about working together with the federal government, which has a responsibility to all of its citizens. It can't just leave this up to the local or the provincial government. We've been in Canada since 1604. We were side by side with Samuel de Champlain when this country was founded.
We're not just another minority group. We're one of the founding peoples of this country. You can check your history books. James Douglas of B.C. was a black man. He was the governor who founded B.C. William Hall of Nova Scotia won the first Victoria Cross for this country. We've been here from day one. In the War of 1812, we died on the waterfront defending southwestern Ontario from the Americans. We have been here every day since day one.
I'm just asking the committee to ask the government to maybe make an investment in the black community. We see that in the U.S., where they're putting together a billion dollars. The Republican Congress assigned a billion dollars to build a national museum of African American history and culture on the mall in Washington, on five acres across from the Washington Monument. The Republican Bush White House did this. We're asking the government to show the Americans and show the world that when we say we value diversity, those are not just empty words, that we really mean it.
We have 40% to 70% unemployment in the black community. This is from Professor Ornstein from York University. That's 40% to 70% unemployment, my friends, and that is mind boggling, but this is what we face every day. That's why you see the crimes and the issues in our community. The young men and the people are hopeless. It's amazing that it hasn't boiled over into something à la France.
We are trying to come forward with solutions. We believe that if we find a willing partner in the federal government, we can do great things. We can build institutions, cultural entities, and have cultural tourism that will generate $500 million to $600 million a year. Caribana does that in two weeks. Ask the government here. It generates $48 million in PST for the provincial government over a two-week period. Jim Bradley, the Minister of Tourism, told me that. That's $48 million in two weeks. Can you imagine what a year-round destination on the waterfront would do, not only in terms of generating taxes for the city and the province, but also for the federal government? What about the GST?
So we're asking the federal government, basically, to partner with us, to talk to the provinces, to talk to the city about working with the local black community and social entrepreneurs like myself, who have ideas. There's no shortage of ideas. What we need is a willing partner at the federal level, to engage us and work with people like myself who are committed—committed—to the cause of building economic and cultural institutions that will not only be of benefit to the black community, but be of benefit to this country.