‘Feminist’ Canada funds women to grow businesses: Minister

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Toronto, July 17 (IANS) A “feminist” Canada is investing nearly $2 billion Canadian dollars (about Rs 10,000 crores) as seed capital in businesses led by its women entrepreneurs, said a senior woman minister here.

“As Canada is committed to encourage women to grow businesses, we have allocated nearly $2 billion in the fiscal 2018-19 budget for investing in businesses run by women entrepreneurs,” Canadian Small Business Minister Bardish Chagger told IANS in an interview here.

The Canadian government, led by Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, has also a women’s entrepreneurship strategy in the budget to assist women-led ventures grow and help their nation prosper.

Though born and raised in Canada, Chagger, 38, is of Indian origin, as her parents are Indians, who migrated from Punjab in the 1970s and settled here.

The first woman leader of government in the Canadian House of Commons as a Member of Parliament (MP) from Waterloo in Ontario, Chagger also holds the tourism portfolio since 2016.

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Echoing Trudeau’s viewpoint that Canada cannot tap its potential full if half of its 36-million population was left behind, Chagger said her government was focused on investing in the people, especially refugees and immigrants who came from the worldover for a better life in this country, bordering the US in the North.

“We are a feminist government that practises gender balance to empower all our people and give them equal opportunities to grow,” said Chagger, a keynote speaker at the three-day Dell Women’s Entrepreneur Network (DWEN), organised by the American computer maker Dell Technologies here since Sunday.

As only 16 per cent of Canadian businesses are owned or run by women, the Trudeau government is working on doubling it to 32 per cent by 2025.

The Canadian government is focused equally on women to build a stronger economy without discriminating them as immigrants or refugees, said Chagger.

Referring to her Indian origins, Chagger said her Indian grandfather would not have imagined migrating to this country and his grand-daughter getting elected to become a Cabinet minister.

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“But Canada stands for providing equal opportunities for everyone regardless of their origin and regions,” she said.

With more diversity under Trudeau’s leadership, lawmakers’ decisions ensure that voices of women, immigrants and other minorities are heard, she said.

“Unless one is indigenous, almost everyone is an immigrant in Canada. We have elected people on the Cabinet who came to Canada as refugees, those served in armed forces, etc. Canada has been a welcoming country and will continue to be for migrants from the world over,” Chagger said.

The Liberal Party’s Cabinet, touted as the “most diverse” globally, has Indian-origin Harjit Sajjan, the first Sikh to become Canada’s Defence Minister, and Carla Qualtrough, a former paralympic athlete, as Minister of Public Services.

The 30-member Trudeau Cabinet has equal number of men and women in it.

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With 1.3-million (13 lakh) people of Indian origin, Canada is also looking for stronger ties with India, especially in trade and tourism.

“We have established links in February between Communitech, a hub for technology firms in Waterloo region, and the T-hub at Hyderabad in Telangana, to foster technology businesses in both regions. We are looking for more such opportunities in both countries,” Chagger said.

Canadian Parliament in Ottawa recognised Punjabi as the third most-spoken language, after English and French, said Chagger.

Canada is also investing in developing skills of people for the growth of its economy.

“We are working on lowering taxes on the middle class, which is the backbone of our economy. We want to give benefits to those who need them most and are asking the wealthy to forego them,” added Chagger.

(Bhavana Akella is in Toronto at the invitation of DWEN. She can be contacted [email protected])

–IANS

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