Good morning, Mr. Chairman. Thank you for allowing us the opportunity to speak.
My name is Kirt Ejesiak. I'm with the Inuit Business Council of Nunavut. My background is in public policy. I've gone to the Kennedy School at Harvard. I've worked as a chief of staff for the Government of Nunavut at the premier's office. I've worked also at the local level with small organizations to help build capacity. I've run a business for 25 years. My role really is to be the interim director of the new organization, the Inuit Business Council, to address some of the shortfalls in providing assistance to Inuit businesses.
I'm here today to speak about some of the challenges we've seen and some of the issues that have come up during the COVID crisis: namely, the programs that exist for Canadians, many Inuit businesses are not eligible to receive. One example is the Canada emergency business account that the government has set up to help businesses. These programs unfortunately are not available to many small Inuit businesses.
What we request is consideration of a northern CEBA program, which would allow the same opportunities for Inuit business owners to access a line of credit that is interest-free until 2021, but we request that the lines of credit be increased to $250,000, really to address some of the unique challenges that we have in the Arctic. What I mean by that is we often have to purchase goods and ship them in the summer season to allow for a year's worth of goods to be sold. We have to take advantage of the short summer season. In essence, we're trying to purchase all our goods for the entire year, hence the request for a large program such as a northern CEBA.
Second, we encourage governments across the north to purchase goods and services from Inuit-owned businesses. I think the federal government has been very responsive. We commend it for making changes to programs, but we encourage the government to spend locally as much as it can. The current procurement system is not really conducive to this type of crisis. It favours large, long-established companies from outside the north. We request that the government look at providing a unique COVID response to procure services locally.
Third, I'm speaking today really as a small business owner. We're not a grand organization. It's really small business owners who have banded together to address our specific needs. I've been involved in national organizations for a long time, but I think what's lacking is the supports for small organizations that want to be the voice for, in our case, small Inuit businesses. We would request that the committee recommend support for organizations such as ours, specifically organizations that would allow a seat at the table when crises happen, when discussions are happening related to procurement and related to large megaprojects in our indigenous communities.
To be specific, for us, we would request funding. I would say $1 million is really our initial ask, if the committee were to recommend support as part of the COVID response. It's important that our voices are heard, and we need to foster a way for organizations such as ours that come together. We're really an ad hoc group and we want to make sure that our voices are heard during the COVID pandemic and other crises that happen in our communities.
In closing, Mr. Chairman, we appreciate the opportunity to speak, and we hope this dialogue will continue as we get through COVID.