MONROVIA – On August 16, 2022, Hon.Helena Jaczek, Minister responsible for the Federal Economic Development Agency for Southern Ontario (FedDev Ontario) in Canada accompanied by the Honorable Filomena Tassi, Minister of Public Services and Procurement and Receiver General for Canada and a host of Members of Parliament were on hand for the official announcement of a non-repayable investment of over $1.9 million for Empowerment Squared which was founded by former Liberian refugee Leo Nupolu Johnson.
Leo Nupolu Johnson was resettled to Canada in 2006 from the Buduburam Refugee Camp and immediately set out on a quest to ensure the empowerment of refugees through success in the education system. This led him to establish Empowerment Squared in 2018 – an organization dedicated to empowering refugee and marginalized youth and communities in Canada and across the world through mentorship, access to post-secondary education, information literacy, and sports and recreation.
Under his leadership, the organization has assisted over 10,000 refugee youth and families with settling in Canada and has grown from a one – man operation to more than 15 full time staff, two office locations and an annual budget of more than $1.5 million. Additionally, the organization is currently building the Liberian Learning Center estimated at $ 2million in Paynesville in partnership with the Rotary Club of Monrovia, Rotary Club of Hamilton, Tri Buchanan, mcCallumSather and the Hamilton Public Library. The Learning Center will house the only purposely built public library since the end of the civil war.
According to Leo, “today’s announcement by the Government of Canada is a game changer for the Black community … there are two sides to the challenges we face — one side is the fighting side and the other is the building side, we must stand up and fight against injustices, but we must also build to deal with the reality of over 400 years of deficits still impacting our communities today. That is why I am pleased to be partnering with the Canadian government to draw some energy to the building side, which I believe has been neglected for far too long.”
With this investment, through the Black Entrepreneurship Program (BEP) Ecosystem Fund, Empowerment Squared will create the Southwestern Ontario Black Business Network. This consortium of partners will provide Black entrepreneurs in the Hamilton and Windsor areas with advisory services, mentorship, entrepreneurial training, and networking opportunities to help them succeed. Additionally, this investment will support the creation of 80 new jobs and 275 Black entrepreneurs and reinforces the Government of Canada’s commitment to removing barriers to success and celebrating the positive economic impacts of Black entrepreneurs in Canada.
Black entrepreneurs are a vital contributor to Canada’s economy and the nation’s rich culture, though they are often faced with barriers to success. The Government of Canada recognizes the importance of these contributions and is proud to support projects that provide Black entrepreneurs with support and contribute to building a strong, inclusive, and equitable future for all.
Leo’s work has been recognized in Canada and across the world, he is the recipient of several awards including the YMCA Peace Medal, Gandhi Peace Award, World Citizenship Award from the City of Hamilton and has been recognized among the top 75 immigrants in Canada. He is also an instructor at the Degroote School of Business – McMaster University. He was also awarded the McMaster University Global Community Impact Award and the Afroglobal TV
2018 Visionary Award. In 2019, Leo was one of 14 people selected globally as a Fellow for the International Decade for People of African Descent by the United Nations. He currently serves as the President of the Liberian Association of Canada – the umbrella association for Liberians in Canada where he has helped the association raise over $300,000 in the last three years.