Welcome to Skills for Change’s Spotlight Series: An in-depth look and discussion all around relevant issues of today, moderated by our CEO Surranna Sandy.

Check out our promo video for our Spotlight Series!

Next Event: Anti-Black Racism: A Year in Review and the launch of the Black Leadership Institute on Social Action for Change, May 25, 2021

On May 25th 2020, the world witnessed a global uproar against racism, against systematic racial inequities and racial injustice. Since then, we started having more meaningful conversations and actions about race and combating Anti-Black Racism. Different initiatives have been developed and efforts undertaken to make and take the long overdue changes to address systematic racism. But has this made any real impact, what are the key achievements made to address Anti-Black Racism in Canada since the murder of George Floyd and the rise of the Black Lives Matter movement?

Join us on May 25th 2021 at 11:00 a.m. to 12:00 p.m. on a year’s journey of reflection in the aftermath of the global outcry on Anti-Black Racism. The session will examine the progress made and what more can be done to address Anti-Black Racism. The discussions will explore ways that leaders, innovators and changemakers across the public, private, and social sectors can up their support for Anti-Black Racism efforts and build an inclusive recovery in the aftermath of the COVID-19 pandemic.

On this occasion, we are honoured to launch Skills for Change’s Black Leadership Institute on Social Action for Change that will lead efforts to address Anti-Black Racism and systemic inequalities affecting Black Communities. This launch will present an opportunity to dig further into what we can all do to fight racism in Canada.

Mark your calendars for these enriching discussions to advance the much-needed work to combat Anti-Black Racism and push forward the conversation and reforms to break the systemic inequalities that hinder Black communities.

COVID-19 & Anti-Black Racism: A Double-Edged Sword for Black Entrepreneurs

The COVID-19 pandemic has disrupted lives and livelihoods. It has shed a spotlight on all inequities and exacerbated the already longstanding systemic barriers through the glare of systemic racism and in particular, Anti-Black Racism and related inequities in employment, resources and wealth that have further compounded socioeconomic inequities. The extreme experiences of Anti-Black Racism have brought to the fore, the prominence of the Black Lives Matter movement and protests around the world calling out Anti-Black Racism, raising heightened awareness about the rights of Black people and Black communities. This February, as we honor Black History Month, reflecting on the profound traumas of Black History and honoring the remarkable contributions and struggles of Black Canadians, it is a watershed moment to acknowledge the tremendous work still needed to address Anti-Black Racism. It is also an opportunity to discuss the challenges caused by the pandemic unique to Black entrepreneurs, who, over the years, have strengthened the Canadian economy and labour market.

Research has shown that the Black Canadian population across Canada has been greatly impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic. Black Canadians face higher rates of unemployment and are over-represented in the industries like food and accommodation services that are most affected by the pandemic. They are also over-represented in precarious employment in jobs that are at the greatest risk in the work of the future. Research has also shown that Black people are pursuing self-employment and entrepreneurship due to the negative experiences in the workplace caused by explicit racism, discrimination and microaggressions, and exclusion from employment.

The pandemic has been a harsh blow to Black entrepreneurs adversely affecting the scale and revenue of their businesses. Black entrepreneurs have faced financial losses and challenges, the urgent need to invest in digitization to balance their stalled offline and physically based business activities with online business, the lack of a stable customer-base exacerbated by the physical distancing norms and series of lockdowns causing many businesses to shut down. Many Black entrepreneurs have also faced financial exclusion due to biases at financial institutions making accessible financing a major hurdle for their businesses. In sum, Black entrepreneurs have been sidelined by the systemic discrimination embedded in the institutions in the entrepreneurial ecosystem, ranging from education, finance, business support, incubators and accelerators, and government funding. Moreover, there is also a lack of support in the ecosystem in the form of encouragement, mentorship, sponsorship, and access to networks and information.

With the pandemic paralyzing Black-owned businesses, this has taken a mental health toll on Black entrepreneurs. Black women entrepreneurs have been hardest hit faced with more disruptions in their businesses, picking up more of the childcare and household responsibilities. As the Black Lives Matter movement gained momentum in 2020, it gave visibility to some Black-owned businesses through the Buy Black-owned campaigns but many continue to struggle to stay afloat. These unique struggles of Black entrepreneurs have led to the federal government extending aid to qualifying Black entrepreneurs. Questions still arise: is this enough? What policies should be put in place to deconstruct systems that help perpetuate Anti-Black Racism? Can more loans truly help businesses already experiencing financial constraints?

As Canada gears up for a reset, key discussions should be on how to build a more equitable future for Black entrepreneurs and providing for the right business ecosystems that can mitigate or negate the effects of structural obstacles to business building for Black business owners. The economic recovery policies should also take on board provisions to support Black-owned businesses and empower Black entrepreneurs to become more resilient and equipped to offset entrepreneurial challenges.

On February 23, Skills for Change’s Spotlight Series had a panel to discuss challenges faced by Black entrepreneurs in the light of the COVID-19 pandemic and the existing Anti-Black Racism and its magnified impact on Black-owned businesses and the economy. The session highlighted how Black entrepreneurs are tackling the unique challenges to keep businesses afloat and explore ways to create sustainable change and a lasting legacy for Black entrepreneurs to succeed and thrive. The session brings together business leaders, innovators and changemakers to discuss solutions and policies to support Black-owned businesses and create an equitable ecosystem. It also called for concerted efforts by public-, private-, and social-sector organizations to address Anti-Black Racism and the racial inequality and social injustice it spews and how to close that gap.

Wes Hall, Executive Chairman & Founder, Kingsdale Advisors and Founder and Chairman, The Black North Initiative

Karima-Catherine Goundiam, Founder & CEO, Red Dot Digital Inc. & B2BeeMatch

Isaac Olowolafe Jr., Founder & General Partner, Dream Maker Ventures

Ejibola Adetokunbo-Taiwo, CEO, Simply Ejibola Inc. & Founder of de Sedulous Women Leaders

Dean Delpeache, Director, Consulting, Strasity & Director of Talent and Diversity, Fiix Software

Moderator: Surranna Sandy, CEO, Skills for Change

COVID-19's Impact on Canadian Immigration, Settlement and the future of the Canadian Labour Market

The COVID-19 pandemic has had devastating impacts on the immigration and settlement sector in Canada, and far worse disproportionate impacts on immigrants and refugees. The pandemic has also blurred Canada’s international reputation as a world leader with respect to immigrant and refugee resettlement, especially since the last few years had witnessed an influx of immigrants from around the world who had revitalized the Canadian economy in terms of labour force, productivity and culture. With immigrants and refugees filling gaps in Canada’s labour force, the Canadian economy has significantly become dependent on their expertise, resources and experience. The pandemic has negated this progress, creating an unprecedented crisis posing critical threats to the social and economic well-being of immigrants and refugees with long-term repercussions for their settlement and the future of the Canadian labour market.

Public health measures and restrictions on international travel to combat the spread of the coronavirus resulted in a 26% decline in Canadian immigration numbers in March 2020 causing a sudden jolt to the economy and labour market. The confinement measures necessary to protect public health have also resulted in a negative shock to the Canadian labour market. OECD reports a drop in employment of over 1 million in March 2020, followed by a further decline of 2 million in April 2020.The employment loss from February to April (-15.7%) far exceeded declines observed in previous labour market downturns, and further escalated Employment Insurance claims. The hardest-hit population were racialized minorities, immigrants and refugees, who were further impacted due to systemic barriers of racism, language and gender. Previous Spotlight Series have covered in greater detail the pandemic’s impact on newcomers, immigrants and refugees.

Questions about the future of work have also been pertinent, with forecasts that automation will likely accelerate in a post-COVID-19 labour market having different spatial impacts across Canada.Undoubtably, immigrants are more negatively impacted by these changes and all the economic fallout due to the pandemic. In addition to increased unemployment and the role of international travel in the initial spread of the pandemic, there is increased risk of a backlash in public opinion against immigrants.

These social and economic implications have put a strain on Canada’s immigration and settlement sector. The 2021 – 2023 immigration plans developed by the Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada considers the changing scenario of COVID-19 and its consequences on immigration numbers.As we constantly gear to adapt, it is essential to address the economic, social, and cultural impact of the pandemic on immigration and the labour market to rebuild opportunities and spaces for immigrants and refugees. Efforts to revive the sector and support Canada’s economic recovery and growth includes increased immigration levels to support a stronger economy. This immigration boom will require enhanced capacity for the sector to provide comprehensive services to all immigrants and refugees to seamlessly integrate in Canada and contribute to Canada’s economic growth. This will also include concerted efforts to combat systemic racism.

On January 26, Skills for Change CEO Surranna Sandy amongst a panel of experts discussed the long-term impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic on Canadian Immigrants and refugees, the impact on the immigrant and refugee settlement sector and the implications on the future of the Canadian labour market. The session highlights solutions on equipping the Canadian labour market to create equal opportunities for immigrants and refugees eliminating major obstacles from their journey in Canada. The discussion also covered concerted efforts and policies required to future proof the sector’s resilience and bring everyone together to tackle the socio—economic impacts of the pandemic in the sector.


Adwoa K. Buahene – CEO, TRIEC

Carl Cadogan – CEO, Reception House Waterloo Region

Prof. John Shields – Professor, Department of Politics and Public Administration, Ryerson University

Pedro Barata – Executive Director, Future Skills Centre

Francisco Rico-Martinez – Co-Director, FCJ Refugee Centre

Pathways to an Equitable Reset

Women, and in particular, racialized newcomers, immigrants and refugees have borne the catastrophic brunt of the COVID-19 pandemic in Canada. These racialized women communities have been disproportionately impacted by the pandemic due to already longstanding systemic barriers. These include the effects of systemic racism, such as employment inequity, inequitable distribution of power, wealth, and resources resulting into high rates of poverty, and lack of access to basic needs such as health care, housing, food as well as lack of resources and tools for internet connectivity.

Women’s participation in the workforce has also regressed, with many women leaving work to shoulder the burden of unpaid care work at home, while those earning the lowest wages in the most precarious sectors continue to serve at the frontlines of the pandemic. As a result, this crisis has been described as a She-cession, uprooting the gendered progress made on gender equality and women economic empowerment. Our September Spotlight Series extensively covered these issues and much more.

We now stand at a pivotal moment to seize the opportunity and join forces to address the challenges before us, to map out and consolidate integrated intersectional policy measures that have been identified to address the disproportionate challenges faced by women, particularly in the Black, Indigenous, and People of Color communities, while addressing any gaps to avoid going back to “business as usual” and conversely, “building back better”.

Take a look at our Spotlight Series diving deeper into the COVID-19 Pandemic’s impact on BIPOC Women. Thank you to Surranna Sandy, CEO of Skills for Change for moderating the panel and Thank to you all our panelists:

– Dr. Jill Andrew, MPP, Toronto-St. Paul’s

– Maya Roy, CEO, YWCA Canada

– Carmina Ravanera, Research Associate, Institute for Gender & The Economy at the University of Toronto’s Rotman’s School of Management

– Chanel Grenaway, Principal, Chanel Grenaway & Associates

COVID-19 Pandemic's impact on BIPOC Women

Across every sphere, from health to the economy, security to social protection, the impacts of COVID-19 are exacerbated for women and girls simply by virtue of their sex.
Policy Brief by the UN Secretary-General
The COVID-19 pandemic has caused a global health crisis posing grave threats to human life, and far-reaching consequences of major economic disruptions. Notably, the crisis has negatively impacted immigrants, newcomers and refugees more disproportionately than others, with a lack of means to sustain themselves, to look for work or integrate into the society, as well as placing major obstacles in the ways of skills development. With the social distancing and eventual lockdowns, these marginalized communities have continued to be isolated, which has also taken a great toil on their mental health.
Within this group, perhaps, women bear the burden the most and are the most marginalized, carrying the heavy responsibility of child care, and yet they are also faced with systemic issues such as gender pay gaps etc., Women are also more often involved in part-time work, as well as sectors that were affected early on in the pandemic. Statistics Canada reported that 1.5 Million women lost their jobs over in March and April due to the pandemic.
Since the onset of COVID-19, there has also been an unprecedented rise in domestic violence against women and a spotlight on mental health due to the stigma, isolation and inability to interact with other people. Additionally, women have continued to suffer unduly as most of them serve as frontline workers in the fight against COVID-19. These challenges have resulted in a loss in confidence. If key actions are not taken now, the gender gap will continue to widen beyond COVID-19.
On September 15, Skills for Change CEO, Surranna Sandy led the discussions on the pandemic impacts of COVID-19 on women, highlighting the key challenges faced by women especially the Black, Indigenous, and People of Color. The discussion covered solutions being put in place to alleviate these challenges as well as additional support being made available to women to counter these obstacles. The panel also examined the feminist approach being taken by government to bring about gender equality, social and economic recovery.
Thanks to our panelists:
Nneka MacGregor, Co-founder and Executive Director of Women’s Centre for Social Justice
Sunder Singh, Executive Director, Elspeth Heyworth Centre for Women
Wendy Cukier, Professor of Entrepreneurship and Strategy and Academic Director of the Diversity Institute at the Ted Rogers School of Management Ryerson University
Sultana Jahangir, Executive Director, South Asian Womens’ Rights Organization
Priyanka Sheth, Interim Executive Director, Sistering

Tackling Anti-Black Racism as a Public Health Crisis

This is our fourth workshop on Tackling Anti-Black Racism as a Public Health Crisis.

This session was held virtually on August 4, 2020 with 100+ participants.

Our speaker:

Liben Gebremikael, First Executive Director, TAIBU Community Health Centre

Anti-Black Racism and its impact on the LGBTQ2S+ Community

This is our third workshop on Anti-Black Racism and its impact on the LGBTQ2S+ Community.

This session was held virtually on July 14, 2020 with 100+ participants.

Our speakers:

Dr. Wesley Crichlow, first past Associate Dean of Equity, Chair of the President Equity Taskforce, Professor and Director for Engagement and Recruitment for Youth in Foster Care Pathways to University

Kim Borden Penney, President, Penney Consulting Services Inc.

Anti-Black Racism in the City of Toronto

This is our second workshop on Confronting Anti-Racism in the City of Toronto.

This session was held virtually on June 30, 2020 with 200+ participants.

Our speakers:

Anthony N. Morgan, Manager, Confronting Anti-Black Racism Unit at the City of Toronto

Aina-Nia Ayo’dele Grant, Director of Community Resources at the City of Toronto

Unconscious Bias and Anti-Black Racism Workshop

Hear from our HR expert panel who will speak to their lived experiences and deep dive into the microaggressions and larger biases black individuals face in the workplace; and what the HR community and allies need to do to ensure equity and fairness to eliminate anti-black racism at work.

This session was held virtually on June 23, 2020 with over 100+ participants.

Our Speakers:

Dean Delpeache, Sr.Manager of Talent Acquisition at FIIX Software

Nicole Pitt, HR Engagement Lead at Kinross Gold Corporation

Nadisha Berry, HR Specialist at Skills for Change