Government of Canada supports women entrepreneurs in Ontario

News release

Government of Canada invests over $1.7 million in PARO Centre for Women’s Enterprise to support more than 170 businesses, create and maintain 190 jobs, and provide training to 1,500 women entrepreneurs

March 8, 2023 – Ottawa, Ontario

Women entrepreneurs in Canada are essential to the economic success of our communities and neighbourhoods. They often face unique challenges when starting and growing their businesses. On International Women’s Day, and throughout the year, the Government of Canada is investing in the power of women entrepreneurs. Helping women achieve the goals they set for their businesses is key to a strong, diverse economy and a better future for all Canadians.

Today, the Honourable Filomena Tassi, Minister responsible for the Federal Economic Development Agency for Southern Ontario (FedDev Ontario), alongside the Honourable Mona Fortier, President of the Treasury Board and Member of Parliament for Ottawa–Vanier, announced a contribution of over $1.7 million for PARO Centre for Women’s Enterprise (PARO) to deliver the Women's Enterprise Centre Southern and Eastern (WECSE) Ontario initiative.

PARO, a women-led not-for-profit social enterprise, helps women in Ontario start and grow their businesses and position them for future success through educational programs, skills training, networking, mentoring and access to funding. This investment will expand their services offered in Northern Ontario to diverse women entrepreneurs and women-led companies across the rest of the province, with a focus on the rural areas of Prescott-Russell, Stormont, Dundas, Glengarry, Peterborough/Kawarthas and Bruce/Grey/Middlesex.

WECSE will be delivered in collaboration with 10 partners, including local Community Futures Development Corporations, and will support 171 women-owned businesses; create and maintain 190 jobs; establish 75 peer lending circles to deliver mentoring, networking and loans; and provide access to services for business development and job creation to over 1,500 women in the region. The initiative has three primary pillars: start-up support, scale-up support, and expanding access to domestic and export markets.

With support from this investment, the WECSE initiative is targeting important sectors, such as health, agriculture and food production, to boost the growth and market success of participating diverse women-led companies. PARO also prioritizes services to women identifying as Indigenous, members of racialized communities, youth, 2SLGBTQI+, persons with disabilities, newcomers to Canada, and members of official language minority and rural communities.

More information about the program can be found here.  


“The support PARO provides to women across the province is unparalleled. They are working with women to turn their ideas into reality. The Government of Canada is ensuring that organizations like PARO can continue to deliver these services that are so welcome. On International Women’s Day and every other day, our Government stands behind women entrepreneurs and the people that support them.”
– The Honourable Filomena Tassi, Minister responsible for the Federal Economic Development Agency for Southern Ontario

“When women succeed, everyone benefits from their triumphs. PARO helps lift women entrepreneurs so that they can thrive and continue to empower one and another for a more equal world, making a difference in communities like Ottawa-Vanier and across Canada. Today’s investment, made on International Women’s Day, is a wonderful celebration of women-led SMEs and their contributions to a resilient Canadian economy.”
– The Honourable Mona Fortier, President of the Treasury Board and Member of Parliament for Ottawa–Vanier  

“We are encouraged and indeed strengthened in our efforts by the Government of Canada’s commitment through FedDev Ontario to the PARO Women’s Enterprise Centre Southern and Eastern (WECSE) Ontario initiative. This project presents an opportunity for participants to deepen their understanding of the vast opportunities open to them both in terms of building and expanding business connections and partnerships, as well as securing real contract opportunities with major U.S. Corporations.”
– Rosalind Lockyer, Founder, CEO, PARO Centre for Women’s Enterprise

Quick facts

  • Founded in 1995, and led by CEO Rosalind Lockyer, PARO is headquartered in Thunder Bay, Ontario, with two additional offices in Oshawa and Ottawa. 

  • Since 2010, PARO has supported more than 26,000 women and social entrepreneurs, created and maintained over 2,700 jobs, and provided $4.7 million in grant funding.

  • Today’s investment builds on an over $6.2-million investment from the Federal Economic Development Agency for Northern Ontario (FedNor) to extend its Women's Enterprise Centre Northern Ontario (WECNO) initiative.

  • On October 30, 2021, PARO received the International Peace Award recognizing it for the Best Work for Women’s Empowerment in Canadian communities during COVID-19. 

  • March 8 is International Women’s Day (IWD), a global day to raise awareness of the progress made towards achieving gender equality and the work remaining to be done. It’s also a time to recognize and celebrate women’s and girls’ achievements.

  • FedDev Ontario is delivering $224 million of the Jobs and Growth Fund (JGF) to help businesses in southern Ontario and the organizations that support them to future-proof, build resiliency and prepare for growth by transitioning to a green, inclusive and competitive economy.

  • Since 2015, the Government of Canada, through FedDev Ontario, has invested over $820 million in more than 2,000 projects related to women entrepreneurs in southern Ontario, estimated to create over 20,000 jobs and maintain over 31,000 jobs.

Associated links


Edward Hutchinson
Press Secretary
Office of the Minister responsible for the Federal Economic Development Agency for Southern Ontario

Media Relations
FedDev Ontario

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