First Nations taxation

I’ve been struggling with what to write next, given the unreal amount of attention my last blog post got.  I felt some pressure to use the attention to get a message out…but what do I say, where do I start?  How can I top a ‘big picture’ article like one by Wayne Spear, which address so much of what I’ve been trying to say in my responses to comments?

Well I can’t, and that isn’t my goal anyway.  This isn’t a competition for Most Important All-Encompassing Message, and I don’t suddenly have all the answers just because one blog post went viral.  So I’m going to stick to the plan.  I’m going to discuss specific topics and try to demystify them for you.  These aren’t going to be “definitive guides to” anything, but I hope to give you enough information that you can avoid letting these topics draw all your attention away from the big picture discussed by Spear and so many others.

Roll up your sleeves, nitĂ´tĂŞmitik!  Today we’re tackling First Nations taxation!

The short answer first:

  • The Indian Act First Nations tax exemption is very narrow and applies only to personal property and income located on a reserve.
  • First Nations pay all other taxes not covered by the narrow exemption.
  • The tax exemption only involves about 272,000 First Nations people when you subtract the number of children aged 0-14 from the potential tax paying base.
  • That number is actually even lower because a number of First Nations have exchanged tax exemption for other benefits in self-governing Final Agreements.

Indians don’t even pay taxes, why should they get my tax dollars blaaargh (head explodes)!!!!???

I’m sending you the dry-cleaning bill.  Just saying.

This is one of the most common complaints that comes up in any discussion of any news story concerning First Nations.  I am going to focus on the factual aspects of First Nations taxation more than the philosophical discussions of ‘who should be taxed’ and ‘where should my taxes go’, so I’m not going to answer your question in its entirety.

The first thing you need to know is that most aboriginal peoples don’t get tax exemptions.  The tax exemptions that do exist are linked completely to the reserves, so non-Status Indians, Inuit, MĂŠtis, and most Status Indians living off reserve, don’t get any tax exemptions at all.  That narrows down the people eligible for tax exemptions by a pretty huge margin.

In 2006, there were 1,172,790 First Nations, MĂŠtis and Inuit.  Out of that, 623,780 were Status Indians (called Registered Indians in the table). Again, I focus on Status Indians (the legal term) because later on you’ll see that only they have access to the tax exemptions being discussed here.

Out of that, about 299,970 Status Indians were living on reserve, give or take based on not-totally complete census results. [Filter by area of residence to see this.]  It is this group that account for the majority of people who are eligible for the tax exemptions under discussion.

Yeah but okay so about 300,000 – 400,000 Indians don’t pay any taxes!!!!

I hate to do this to you (no I don’t), but I can’t start this discussion until I whittle the numbers down a little more for you.  I think it’s important we keep in mind the actual numbers at play here before we decide to get hysterical about money pouring out of our pockets like a river of multicoloured polymer substrate bills.

I’m not going to point out that in 2006, [sort by age group to check my numbers] there were 196, 285 Status Indians between the ages of 0-14 for a whopping 32% of the total Status Indian population, significantly decreasing the population of potential First Nations tax payers.

I’m not going to mention that the number of Status Indians  on reserve who would even be eligible to pay income taxes absent a tax exemption, was only 198,310 [change the filter on 'area of residence' and then filter by age group]. Unless you think kids aged 0-14 should be included in the labour force and paying income tax. (“But their tiny hands are ideal for polishing the insides of shells!”)

Or, if we are more generous and assume there are actually about 400,000 Status Indians living on reserve and 32% of them are under 14, then it’s 272,000 people that would be eligible to pay income taxes absent the tax exemption. That is also assuming you can actually work until you die of extreme old age, paying income taxes all the while.

I’m not going to point out that this number is pretty reliable year after year, given that the birthrate among First Nations people is pretty high, keeping the 0-14 age group amounts steady if not increasing each year.

I won’t finish up highlighting the fact that what we’re actually talking about here is about 272,000 people across Canada who have access to Indian Act tax exemptions, because I suspect the total numbers aren’t the issue so much as the principle of the thing.

I’m not even going to bother with that stuff, because I want you to know that there are more than 120 First Nations communities across Canada that have an on-reserve property tax regime, generating about $70 million in revenues annually.  A list of those reserves can be found here, organised by province.  The taxes are collected by the Bands, and used for the Bands.

In addition, there are communities that have negotiated self-governance and other alternate tax regimes with the federal government so that the Band levies things like the First Nations Sales Tax, the First Nations Goods and Services Tax, and/or the First Nations Personal Income Tax.  In the Yukon Territories, for example, 11 out  of the 14 First Nations are no longer tax exempt under self-governing Final Agreements.  This reduces the total number of people actually eligible for Indian Act tax exemptions even more.

This doesn’t affect the overall question you have about who should pay taxes and where that money should go of course, but I thought you might like to know that out of the 616 First Nations reserves in this country, close to 20% of them have a property tax regime, and some of them have even more comprehensive taxation regimes in place.

Whoopdeedoo, so a few of them pay property taxes (and a few other taxes) that don’t benefit me at all, what’s your point?

Well the claim that is often made is that First Nations don’t pay any taxes at all.  That might not be the real issue, but it’s certainly worth addressing so that more people understand the reality of the situation. I hope you don’t mind if I continue then.

I am going to quote INAC here (now the unpronounceable AANDC):

In general, Aboriginal people in Canada are required to pay taxes on the same basis as other people in Canada, except where the limited exemption under Section 87 of the Indian Act applies. Section 87 says that the “personal property of an Indian or a band situated on a reserve” is tax exempt.

Alright.  Do you have your Timmy’s coffee ready?  I feel like using a list format to break this down for you.

  • This tax exemption applies to both federal and provincial taxes like income and sales taxes.
  • Non-status Indians are not eligible for this tax exemption.
  • Status Indians who don’t live on reserve are not generally eligible for this tax exemption, unless they are purchasing goods and services on reserve or are employed on reserve.
  • Goods that are purchased on reserve are exempt.
  • Goods that are purchased off reserve and are delivered to the reserve by the retailer’s official agent are tax exempt.  If a Status Indian wants to transport goods back to the reserve, then legally they are not exempt.  Taxes on meals, movie tickets, and a host of other things that couldn’t conceivably be brought back to the reserve are also not tax exempt.
  • Services provided on reserve are tax exempt.  Services provided off reserve are not tax exempt, unless under Section 90 of the Indian Act, the services were purchased with “Indian monies”.  That means ‘official Band monies’, used for things like off-reserve lawyer fees, accountant fees and so on.  Average Band members aren’t accessing those funds, so the services they purchase aren’t tax exempt.
  • Income is considered ‘personal property’ if it’s earned on reserve.  Once you work off reserve, that exemption does not apply and you’re paying income taxes…even if your employer is situated on the reserve.  If your duties are off-reserve in nature, it’s off-reserve income and taxable.  Are there some nitpicky exceptions?  With taxation there always are, but this is the general rule.
  • First Nations corporations and trusts don’t qualify for the Section 87 tax exemption.  INAC explains this pretty well, pointing out that legally a corporation is a separate ‘legal person’ and is not therefore an “Indian”.

Do you have more specific questions about taxation as it relates to investment income or other areas?  Feel free to look into it!

Hold on, I know for a fact that some people using their Status cards for point-of-sale exemptions aren’t living on reserve or having goods delivered there, what gives?

There are a variety of provincial  policies that attempt to make point-of-sales exemptions less painful for all involved.  Some of these policies were created to deal with confusion surrounding the implementation of  the Harmonised Sales Tax (HST) which blends provincial and federal sales taxes. These policies respect the specific exemption we’ve been discussing here, but may provide more relaxed enforcement policies for the provincial portion.

For example, some provinces waive the enforcement of the delivery rule on the provincial portion of the sales tax, allowing a First Nations person to transport goods to the reserve his or herself.  Part of the reasoning here is that requiring delivery to be made by an agent of the vendor has the potential to negate the exemption, as any savings incurred are eaten up by delivery fees.  Other provinces have harmonised their provincial policies with federal policies.

I mention this because the issue is confusing.  Many salespeople do not really understand the exemption and the limitations on it, and some First Nations people aren’t totally clear on it either.  The implementation of this tax exemption can then run into practical problems when people either intentionally or unintentionally mess up how the exemption is applied.

However, the issue is what the legal exemption actually is versus what many believe it to be.  It is important to understand the actual legal exemption rather than characterising the issue by the instances of ‘cheating’.

Even if every single Status Indian in this country (including infants at the breast) were to abuse point of sale rebates, we’d be talking about 600,000 people at most ‘cheating the system’. How many people cheat the system beyond that, claiming fake work expenses, not declaring tips, not declaring other income and so on?

Tax evasion is not unique to any group of people, it is a wider reality.

That still means a bunch of them aren’t paying Income Taxes, which is big time revenue!

I recognise that personal income tax revenue accounts for over 20% of total revenue federally and 15% on average provincially (with a range from 2.3% to 26.6% depending on the province or territory).

Sales taxes account for 11% of total revenue federally, and 8.4% on average provincially (with a range from 0% to 16.2% depending on the province or territory).

This is what a lot of people think about.  Money that isn’t there because of the tax exemption.  Potentially a lot of money not going into public coffers to help pay for social programs.

This argument dismisses the fact that there are other segments of the Canadian population that do not pay income taxes either.  I am not going to look up raw numbers on this, because I think it is beside the point.

No way sister!  It IS the point!

Here is why I disagree.

I think there are two possible arguments you are making here:

  1. You think that people who do not pay income taxes or sales taxes, should  not then be eligible for programs paid for from those tax revenues.
  2. You want to have a say in where your tax dollars go.

If you are arguing point 1, then you aren’t just talking about First Nations people.  Not if you want to approach the issue honestly.  If you believe that only people contributing to these particular tax revenues should receive social programming, then you and I disagree on a fundamental philosophical level that is beyond the scope of First Nations taxation.  I’d even suggest you disagree with a general Canadian belief that does not link individual taxation amounts to eligibility for social programming.  That generalised discussion should be engaged in elsewhere, not merely trained on First Nations people.

If you are arguing point 2, then again you are engaging in a topic that is far beyond the scope of merely First Nations taxation.  There are any number of arguments you could make about how you, the individual tax payer, should be able to direct the spending of your tax dollars (“Why should I pay for programs I will never access?” being a common complaint).  However, the fact is the Canadian government has set up a particular tax spending regime that you have minimal individual control over.  Once more this issue should not be narrowed to only apply to First Nations.

Okay fine, even if I accept that, why do Status Indians living on reserve get this tax exemption in the first place?

Allow me to once again quote INAC on that:

  • A tax exemption for Indian property situated on reserves has existed since before Confederation.
  • The Supreme Court of Canada has stated that this exemption is linked to the protection of reserve land and property.
  • The Court has concluded that the purpose of the exemption is to make sure tax does not erode the use of Indian property on reserves.
  • The Court has indicated that this tax exemption is not intended to remedy the economically disadvantaged position of Aboriginal people in Canada or bring economic benefits to them.

This may not satisfy you.  If that is the case, then you are going to have to delve deeper into the history of this country to understand why this tax exemption was set up.

What I have just said might also not satisfy you.  Perhaps you came here figuring I would answer all your questions.  So can I ask you a question?

Why are churches tax exempt?  Why are non-profit corporations tax exempt?  Can you provide me with a quick and satisfying answer without a historical and sociological explanation?

Fine but I’m still not happy about this!

My main purpose here was to address the claim that “Indians don’t pay taxes”.  It isn’t an accurate statement at all, and I hope you understand this better now. The various justifications for the narrow tax exemption that does exist are more in the nature of a historical and philosophical discussion that can be had elsewhere or at another time.

If you had anywhere near the amount of coffee I’ve ingested while writing this, you’ll probably appreciate this being wrapped up now!  My thanks for your time.

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Categories: Aboriginal law, First Nations, INAC

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121 Responses to First Nations taxation


  1. Nicole says:

    I don’t personally believe that First Nations and Inuit people living in Canada should have to pay any taxes at all…. after all we’re living on their land. Besides land, European colonial policies and programs took a lot more…. including culture and identity (and now we LOVE to use first Nations and Inuit culture as a tokens of our own national identity!)

    • Tanya says:

      I completely and totally agree with you Nicole. I don’t think First Nations people should pay taxes at all. It spits in the face on what they have already been forced to lose to create this country called Canada. People who can’t see that are ignoring Canadian history (and may just be using this tax issue to cover their racism).

      âpihtawikosisân, thank you so much again for clarifying and addressing questions of people who are unfamiliar with FIrst Nations issues.

      • John Rimmer says:

        Natives never owned the land and never will. Ownership was introduced by the Europeans. They were given lands to call their own (ownership). They are still virtually free to roam the lands like they once did. Ownership argument only causes all to be in dispute. NOBODY really owns the land, we just get to ‘lease or rent’ it.

        • It’s almost like you read this satirical article I wrote earlier, and didn’t grasp that it was satire: http://apihtawikosisan.com/2012/01/18/rights-what-rights/

          In particular this part at the end: “Also, some intellectuals and aboriginal radicals make far out claims about indigenous people having legal traditions that included some form of ownership of lands…but it doesn’t count because it isn’t a European property regime, so don’t worry about it too much. ”

          I highly suggest reading that article, and clicking on the links in that last sentence to learn about how some indigenous property regimes worked pre-Contact.

          • robert st-onge dumoulin says:

            there a lot of topics in all of this I hope I doont wondertoo much away….
            1 why di natives have to the right to not pay taxes….. this goes back to the day when our land was stolen from us and we were sent in segregation on reserves and then given numbers like cattle. the gov thu public awareness apologised and then started to hand out treaties and rights for compensation for what they have done!!!!! a lot of the treaties are still ignored to this day,

            its actually the indian act that hasn’t been updated for a very long time that ties our hands in moving forward… their are some tribe that have no indian act at all, yes we live on crown land and it has some pros and cons…..we cannot own property because in the indian act it stated that we are not mentally capable of entering into a legal contact….wich I can attest there are some of my neighbours…their right but as the years go by and our youth are being educated….. we are a lot more capable now then years ago but the law does not change to reflect the times…there are still some bands run by illiterate inviduals that function the old way…. their family will get a house before anyone else….this why

            2 . they wan to keep tx exemption of the reserves to motivated younger generation to come back and practice their field of study on the community…. because ive seen a lot of young native teens lwave for the bigger cities and never come back… because of the lack of services on a reserve….

            3…. as for not paying taxes outise of the community…… a lot of places have a simple form to fill out providing you live on a reserve mine has my address its indian…..just have to ask I think Canadian tire accepts the status card grabted theire not going to fill out a form if you buy a pack of gum… but on larger ticketed item they might…..depends on how close to an indian reservation they are…I walked into a Canadian tire once they never seen an indian for whatever reason they weren’t sure on the policy so the manager said write down his tax exempt number an remove the taxes…. not t complicated….. not that the fed gov ruled in favor for thr non-status and metis things just got a whole lot more complicated,,,, once the gov and indian affaires are out of court and they decide how to accept about 1 million people into the system and what rights their gonna have…..the retailers are not going to have a choice to accept taxe exemption their going to flood the system in a hurry,,,,,,,this could take years but its coming.we are gonna see the most significant change to the indian act or it will be throwen out completely.

            well this is my opinion hop I didn’t bore you

    • Philosophical discussions about the nature of taxation aside, it is a good source of revenue, and a lot of First Nations have implemented, or are considering implementing, some sort of taxation regime. I think the main issue in these situations is not that ‘taxation is bad’ but rather, ‘we’d like to control it on our territories and benefit directly’. It is just one of the possible tools available to communities who want out from under the Indian Act, but it isn’t the only one.

      That was a bit rambly, just thinking out loud here :)

      • Bekka says:

        I completely agree with the “we’d like to control it on our territories and benefit directly” statement you make in your comment. I think, given the way that some reserves are so profitable (thinking of Westbank in BC) and others are almost completely impoverished (like Attawapiskat, or even some of the reserves here in northern BC), there are many different variables that determine how effective a reserve can be at preserving culture, preserving land/territory and also creating a safe place to live. Having access to funds that the feds don’t have to approve the use of can be a big contribution to the success of a community.

        But that problem isn’t restricted to just First Nations. No, rural and remote non-Native communities often suffer in similar ways, although usually not to the same extreme.

        I’ve really enjoyed reading your take on these issues. You have a calm, clear communication style and it is something that is often sorely lacking in the discussions regarding First Nations.

      • NIcole says:

        That makes complete sense to me – autonomy. I was just thinking about the idea of First Nations peoples paying taxes that go towards things like…. building mega prisons.

      • Tanya says:

        No, you made a very good point, and I agree with the “control it and benefit directly” part. Everyone here has great comments.

    • gerry garcia says:

      i disagree completely with that statement, we are living on Canada’s land, people fought for this country. indians arent above anyone else. that is old times, get with the now. Stop living in the past. reserves themselves are bullshit and there should be such a thing

      • Your post displays a stunning lack of understanding of both historical and contemporary reality as regards land and the unresolved nature of the relationship between Canada and aboriginal peoples. You are invited to real the Aboriginal Issues Primers to at least gain the barest perspective before you spout off like this again…these kinds of ‘get over it’ statements based on a total lack of background knowledge will not be tolerated here.

        • Brian says:

          I think that while settlers of the past are responcibilbe for numerous crimes, both sides need to see the others perspective.

          FN history is a part of Canada’s history. And we are all apart of canada,

          I think its crude to tell decendants of europeans that they are not entitiled to the same benifits or equality treatment even tho they themselves where born in Canada and are native to this land. That is a prespective of racism that is not considered. This begs the question of how many generations must pass before one can claim that they are native to these lands?

          I think that everyone who served for this land in the world wars should be honored as natives of this land, as they fought and in most cases died defending the Idea of a truely equal land.

          I also believe that FN are raised believing that they are owed (not agruing if they are or not), and this to me is an issue, as how can we develop a better system if we are still on about who owes what and why.

          I also want to point out that many settlers came here for a new life… and not to deliberatly wrong the FN. I think its wrong to make the assumption that the brittish lords who arranged the government and the treaties, even resided here. To assume that every non-native persons is responcible for crimes of the past, that be like criminally prosecuting you for murdiering my ancestor from the 1700′s. Thats not justice.

          The point is simple… the majority of non natives out there are tired of being blamed for crimes they didnt do. and being forced to pay for those crimes leads to further disdain. we need to put the past in the past, and embrace each other to build a new and better nation.

          the problem is the segreigation, we need to remove it, but the government wont, and then both sides need to work to repare the images of each other to the other, to be able to start the mending.

          I think its stupid that the white people aroundme assume im native and are always angery when I cant prove my status. I think its stupid that I am an 8th generation Canadian, with my Great Grandmother being native, and Im not entitiled to decaire myself as a native Canadian. If i was an animal, I would by genetics be a natural native of canada, as much as any first nations pure blood. I get discrimination from both sides of the coin, and Im also left to fend for myself because im not “pure” enough for either sides embrace. Its Life i get it, but it proves we all need to see both sides.

          • It is crude to tell FNs that they have anything even remotely similar to ‘the same rights’ as other Canadians…or to believe it. And further, it is crude to claim that FNs are somehow denying settlers rights.

            I would appreciate it if you would stop recycling racist tropes about indigenous people. So far you’ve made reference to alcoholism, welfare abuse, laziness, sense of entitlement, “blaming whitey for everything” and so forth. For someone who claims not to believe this, while calling for education on a wider level, it would behoove you to indulge in these stereotypes less.

            If you cannot do that, please refrain from posting further. Indigenous peoples are very, very familiar with these stereotypes. We don’t need to hear them repeated as though you are bringing something valuable to the table by doing so.

          • Arlene says:

            This statement is disturbing in that it is basically a “get over it” attitude that assumes that the wrongs perpetrated against First Nation peoples happened in the 1700′s. Terrible accounts of hunting indians for sport occurred as late as the 1960′s in BC . Ignorance and assumptions still happen today, I can attest to that personally. The case of Indian Residential schools is another horrific example of the Government’s “taking care of the situation” Do a little more investigation please, maybe start with the small pox blankets

          • Brian says:

            in reply to your pervious remark accusing me of saying “get over it” I take personally. I have spent my entire life idolizing and advocating FN. Yet your people only continually accuse me of crimes I NEVER COMMITED.

            I have even been aressted for being native. No other reason, and I can prove it. Yet aborinal affairs refuses to even look at the case, based off of bloodlaws which came from the white man.

            I even asked you for options to hold these corrupt officers responcible for attacking FN. Your reply was “find a white lawyer to apply aboriginal law”.

            I have been considering using my case to sue aboriginals for missaproperation of restitution. I personally believe now from my experiences that these “hate crimes” are intentially purpetuated for your people to exploit claims of hate, and for cops to exploit articals 25&35 of the charter to meet and increase quota.

            Most of the discrimination today is because of the FN abuse of resources and gov. restitutions, with VERY LITTLE to show for cultural recovery, and any made is intentionally kept away from all non aboriginals.

            I find it amusing to see how most FN have become the very EVILs they accuse all others of being. Personally your not your ancestors, you do not deserve your ancestors restitution, and the fact that FN degrade their ancestors to a dollar value is the furthest from FN spirituality. Maybe you should do some research yourself.

          • I am publishing this comment only because it is so utterly bizarre and ridiculous…I think people need to see to what extent some people will delude themselves into victimhood and oppression in order to deny their privilege. Especially when they also claim to ‘idolize’ and ‘advocate’ First Nations.

            You will not post here again. Please take your disturbed ramblings elsewhere.

          • alex winston says:

            You’re a douchebag.

      • Naomi says:

        You need to understand that Canada didn’t exist and wouldn’t of existed without the help of “Indians” who fought for this country.

  2. Becs says:

    It was First Nation’s (FN) land before the Europeans, but it may have been someone else’s land before the FN ancestors arrived. Land ownership is ever changing. Many FN beliefs are (were) completely against the idea of owning anything – things were shared, people were nomadic, they were the caretakers of the land etc.

    Our current situation with reserves is not working. Why? Because communities are becoming less and less self sufficient/accountable. They are completely relying on outside sources of money/resources. Many nursing stations/hospitals/schools/water plants are staffed by outsiders, people do not pay for their houses, so many have no motivation to keep them in order. Very few sources of food are actually harvested/hunted around the reserves. There are few paying jobs for the peoples on the reserves – not that there are not jobs to be done (garbage pickup for example).

    The Indian Act? Racist. It was written by Europeans who thought that white people were inherently smarter than other races. Many pieces of the Act have undertones of “Indians are slow, they will never be self-sufficient, they need the white man to live, they do not know any better”.

    The cycle of dis-empowerment needs to be broken and it will not be done by the feds. It needs to be done by the people.

    • “Many FN beliefs are (were) completely against the idea of owning anything – things were shared, people were nomadic, they were the caretakers of the land etc.”

      Just a few quibbles here. Not all First Nations were nomadic, that’s a big misconception. Many west coast nations for example had permanent villages. The Iroqouis had large urban centres (large and urban for that time, obviously no skyscrapers :D).

      Most First Nations were not against the idea of owning anything, but rather the principles of ownership in First Nations cultures is different than what you’ll find in European cultures. For instance, in Plains Cree culture, the women ‘owned’ the tipis. Meaning they were responsible for them, and were in charge of setting them up and so on. It does not mean that men had no home ownership, resulting in a fundamental lack of power. The point is, ‘ownership’ is an English word with English cultural connotations and so it is accurate to say First Nations didn’t have English cultural notions of ownership…but it is inaccurate to think this means there was NO ownership of any kind.

      I just wanted to put that out there. Generalisations can be helpful in a discussion so that we aren’t bogged down in details, but some generalisations become myths, and these two generalisations have definitely gained myth status in the Canadian consciousness:)

  3. Ed says:

    A quick read-through of this taxation information makes it almost feel like there is an international border separating reserve and off-reserve … leading one to believe that reserves actually belong to another “nation” … wait a minute …

  4. Mark says:

    Ther are a lot of Staus natives living off reserve use their cards to get point of sale tax exemptions. Most of them are actually white folk (you somehow can be status yet 3 out of 4 grandparents or even 7 out of 8 great grandparents can be european – try wrapping your head around that one)
    a fellow I know just got his status and even though his reserve is 500 km away, he is buying a car and having it delivered to a near reserve to get the tax exemption.
    this is illegal but the government ignores it, just like white folk working under the table.
    My only real beef is the selling of tax exempt cigarettes to children, which is happened all over Northern Ontario. Native leaders need to take a stand, because that is not exercising soveignty, it is simply wrong.

    • Status is very strict in Canada and yet many people have misconceptions about it. I’ll explain it in more detail later but no, these people are not ‘actually [not-native]‘. While not officially based on blood quantum, in essence Canadian Status requirements are more strict than US requirements, and you can lose status in just two generations of out-marriage.

      As for getting exemptions when not living on reserve….some people living in Alberta like to have their cars insured in Saskatchewan because the insurance is cheaper. Just because some people get away with this, does not mean that Alberta law states this is okay. If Alberta does not stamp all of this out, does that mean Alberta is not exercising sovereignty?

      • Fabs says:

        In Alberta, you need the following below. So if you are from any other province you can not get tax exemption- even if you have status card.
        Parties Eligible for the Alberta Indian Tax Exemption (AITE)
        A party eligible for benefits under the AITE program may be one of the following:
        an Indian, as defined by the Indian Act (Canada), 16 years of age or older;
        an Indian band, as defined by the Indian Act (Canada), whose reserve is partially or totally located in Alberta; or
        an Indian band whose band office is located in Alberta.
        No incorporated entity is eligible for the Alberta Indian Tax Exemption.
        Federal law prohibits anyone under the age of 18 years from purchasing tobacco, tax-exempt or otherwise.

        • I think you should get your fax sraight or mine aren’t….and indian is an indian anywhere in north America….so for example I live on a indian territory in quebec and I have Ontario insurance all I need to peoove is where I live with a simple letter from the band and there is not a cable bill, hydro bill, insurance bill even magazine subrcrition bill can charge me taxes…..I even had my iphone sent to me no tax …. I don’t pay any taxes from anyone as long as they send me the bill to my house on reserve

    • Evey Styles says:

      Not sure where you get the term “a lot” when you have actual knowledge of one person doing it. Delivering a vehicle to a reserve for the tax exemption is perfectly legal if that is the deal the customer has with the dealer. As she has written: “Goods that are purchased off reserve and are delivered to the reserve by the retailer’s *official agent* are tax exempt.”

      Is it the fault of the native for wanting to save money? I bought a car once from a non-aboriginal dealer, and he came right out and asked if I was treaty. I said yes, and he offered to drive the car to a nearby reserve so I could save the taxes on it (my own reserve is 4 hours away from the city, and I don’t live there). I didn’t even know that could be done at the time, but he insisted upon it. So…was it my fault for accepting the offer or his for even offering it?

      FYI, we all still pay GST regardless of race.

  5. Sherri chisan says:

    Thanks for posting your thorough and insightful analyses on all these topics. Will be sharing with students at our Indigenous College in treaty six territory. Just want to know if you submitted your article on Attiwapiskat to the National post or if they “borrowed” it?

  6. Chris says:

    Thanks for your informative blog posts – I have to say that my experience with tax-exemption for retail goods is different from what you have posted.

    At the local Walmart (and other retailers) there are many Native people using status cards to make tax exempt purchases of items that certainly are not being delivered to reserves by the retailers – the purchasers are picking up their bags and walking to their cars.

    I’m not complaining – but you have to acknowledge that the reality is slightly different than the letter of the law for whatever reason.

    • The reality is often different from the letter of the law. I think that many retailers themselves do not understand the tax exemption. I have found that in many cases where point of sale rebates are not in place, First Nations people have a heck of time getting the tax exemption replied, and it quite often requires a lot of paperwork and discussions with people who have never dealt with it before.

      To me, the issue is not about people ‘cheating’…because you look at any tax law and you will find people intentionally or unintentionally violating the rules. The issue is about the idea many people have that aboriginal people don’t pay any taxes. Even if every single Status Indian in this country, including infants at the breast, were to abuse point of sale rebates, we’d be talking about 600,000 people at most ‘cheating the system’. How many people ‘cheat the system’ beyond that, claiming fake ‘work expenses’, not declaring tips, not declaring ‘other income’ and so on?

      Tax ‘evasion’ is not unique to any group of people, it’s a wider reality.

    • Are you in Ontario, by any chance? Ontario has broader point-of-sale exemptions that are strictly required by the Indian Act.

      See: http://news.ontario.ca/rev/en/2010/06/ontario-point-of-sale-exemption-for-ontario-status-indians.html

      • Quebec. This has to do with the reaction to problems with the HST which was worrying Ontario First Nations rather than being a broader exemption. Policies like these merely cut down on the amount of paperwork a Status Indian would otherwise have to fill out.

        • Sorry I should’ve been clearer. The “Are you in Ontario?” question was directed at Chris, because I thought the HST point of sale exemptions might explain the difference between what he sees happening at stores and what you described above.

          As I understand it, the HST makes it somewhat easier to get point-of-sale exemptions (if you read through the link, it appears that just about any personal property bought off-reserve that’s not listed as excluded from the exemption qualifies, which, unless I’m misunderstanding what you’ve said in the main post, is a bit broader, although there are still a lot of things that aren’t exempt), and saves the Ontario government a lot of money on administering the HST.

          I also want to just thank you for posting this – it’s really informative.

        • Just to be as super-clear as I can: The link I posted isn’t really a change in policy, it’s explaining how you get exemptions for the provincial portion of the HST, which was the same as how PST exemptions in Ontario worked before. As best as I understand it, there are a number of personal property type goods that Status Indians in Ontario can get exemptions to the provincial portion of the PST on (purchasing off reserve) that they can’t get for the Federal portion, and which wouldn’t qualify for exemptions outside of Ontario.

          If I’ve misunderstood this (which is eminently possible), I hope someone who knows better can correct me.

      • I wanted to add something to this. Provinces or even municipalities that have a significant number of First Nations customers tend to be more familiar with the tax exemption, and are more likely to provide point-of-sale exemptions. Places that are not so familiar with the issue often do not have any set policy for dealing with this and it can be confusing/frustrating for all involved.

        • Paula says:

          I live in Ontario and I can honestly say that it’s a rare occurrence now to come across a retailer who does not accept Status Cards. All but one was very pleasant in explaining their policy and actually provided information to get reimbursed from the government. The one exception, I found her to be rude, condescending, making “you people” remarks with her face becoming redder and redder. After some argument, as she didn’t want to cooperate, I managed to get the information I wanted, needless to say my letter was sent/issue handled with owner. It later dawned on me that the clerk did NOT expect any questions, much less an argument with me. It had me wondering just how many people she tried to or managed to humiliate in the past.
          As a side note….Yes it’s petty i know, but i couldn’t help but cheer quietly inside my mind. Shoppers lined up behind me put their stuff on the counter and walked out shaking their heads at her. :D

      • Chris says:

        I am, in fact in Ontario and I thank you very much for pointing this out to me – I never understood (like many others in my Northern Ontario town) why the tax exemption was happening for good that were clearly not being delivered to a reserve.

        Now I know and look forward to sharing this new knowledge.

    • katana says:

      ya but the walmart thing and any other store is only good if the store it self is on a reserve. if the store is not, then id be talking to the manger..

  7. Emo says:

    Hey, I remember when this was a nice, quiet blog about Cree linguistics, with the occasional rant about the rising cost of eyeglasses.

    The level of effort you’re putting into the blog is, I.M.O., better of being put into a bound-volume (i.e., a book)… and, believe it or not, the format of the blog deters me from commenting or contributing here (unless we’re going back to talking about the use of the distributive locative, or something else related to Cree as a language).

    However, for a single-citation comment, I’d just mention that I find it peculiar that none of the various sides in “legalizing” debates seem to pay much attention to “The Gradual Civilization Act” –i.e., an act that predates Treaty 1 (and, thus, all of the numbered treaties) and gives a real sense of the “intent and assumptions” of the British side of the bargain.

    • Emo says:

      BTW 1, I had just one professor who drew up a quantitative estimate of how much it was costing the city of Toronto to waive property taxes for churches in the city. He’s still the only person I’ve ever met who sincerely supported taxing church property; of course, this would also lead to the Church selling off land that did raise enough “revenue” to pay the taxes (i.e., possibly a good thing). But, as you’ve alluded to, this is the sort of question that just never gets asked: neither career bureaucrats ask it, nor does anyone run for elected office with the promise of taxing the church.

      BTW 2, I realize that I just alluded to the numbered treaties and the Gradual Civilization Act without using any words such as “bad”. Once in a while I forget that disapproval is not the default or universal mode of discussing these things. Please read that as if such condemnation were implicit, scil. “…[it is] an act that predates [the evil] Treaty 1 (and, thus, all of the [evil] numbered treaties) and gives a real sense of the [evil] “intent and assumptions” of the [evil] British side of the [evil] bargain.” etc.

    • More people are likely to read this than pay for a book I think…and my intention isn’t to make money, it’s to get information out there widely. The internet allows that in a way that a regular book cannot:)

      I remember the quiet days too, and sort of miss them to be honest!

      • Emo says:

        I can reassure you that most books don’t make money.

        Conversely, they have the advantage of (at least) retaining the author’s name correctly. I don’t think that old-fashioned paper publishing would have ended up attributing your work to Brett Hodnett (ÂĄsurreal!).

  8. Lauralee says:

    I am dying to know whether you gave the National Post permission to repost your work as appearing to be that of Brett Hodnett?

    Have you seen the article at Brett Hodnett: The real math behind Attawapiskat’s $90 million?

    • They did not ask me for permission, no. Even other bloggers who have reposted this article have generally asked for permission first despite the fact that my license does not require it. Pretty much everyone has done a good job of attributing it properly. I would expect no less of a national publication.

      From a quick survey of other works by Brett Hodnett, I’m not willing to assume he intentionally passed this off as his own work. I suspect he may have forwarded it to the National Post and the editor was not rigorous in finding out where it came from. Hopefully they will attribute it properly, or remove it from their site.

      • Lauralee says:

        Thank you for clarifying – I hope you don’t mind, but I had a blog post sitting in drafts about this and now that you have confirmed what I thought, I edited a bit and hit publish.

      • Chris says:

        There is a link back to your blog way down at the bottom.

        • Sure is. Nonetheless, if I were to see this for the first time I would assume the author was the one included in the by-line. I might also be so tired of clicking on links up to that point that I wouldn’t bother to check.

          It’s misleading, but beyond that it’s not a huge deal imo.

  9. Gail Taylor says:

    I do not know how you can do this. How can you reach out to people and try to share some truth with them and then read those hateful remarks on the National Post. I got so angry I had to close the site and would not even dignify it with a response. They even had the audacity to pretend the words were theirs. How do you go on? I try to talk to people and I get the same kind of misinformation as appeared in the National Post comments. How do you deal with the hurt to know that the vast majority of Canadians just don’t give a damn? How do you keep holding out a hand of understanding? You are a much stronger and more forgiving person than I. I really admire you. If I am the only voice you hear today, hear that I am proud of you and what you are trying to do.

    • Tanya says:

      Umm, I sort of wanted to say, I think the majority of Canadians do give a damn, it;s just they do not have the right information.

      Also, if anyone has ever had to deal with racism they have to learn how to deal with the stuff you just asked about. Also, anyone also who has to deal with racism has to be understanding since that is only way things will get changed. I do really appreciate how âpihtawikosisân highlighted that many services that are provided by the provinces, are provided by the federal government on reserves, since many many people do not know that. It seems very clear to me that the federal standards for infrastructure are extremely low, and their management of this whole system is terrible.

      Again about paying taxes, why should the people pay since they will probably never see a return on those tax dollars anyway if the Federal governments track record is anything to go by. At least I can count on electricity and running water infrastructure for my taxes. People on reserves can’t.

      I am really appreciating the intelligence of the commenters along with âpihtawikosisân. (I hope you do not mind, I have twittered, facebooked and post a link to your blog one message board so far.)

    • I’ve been hearing the same kinds of comments my entire life. Either you learn to ignore them most of the time, or you become too bitter to enjoy life. I think a lot of people will say these things when they aren’t speaking face to face with a real person. Some will say it to your face, mind, but in the main human interaction makes all the difference. The human interactions I’ve had remind me that most people aren’t horrid, hateful, angry bigots. They are normal people with misconceptions that can be corrected.

      So. How do I do it? I focus on the positives, of which there are many…and I take breaks when the negativity gets to be too much.

    • Brian says:

      Hey Gail,

      I can see your point, but I think a huge problem with Canaidians and Canadian Frist Nations is based on one very simple factor.

      “where is the money going?”

      non native people do not see where all this federal money from taxation or other finacial avenues is going. We just see and hear the bad. The line ups at liquor stores, consisting of magority FN in some parts of canada ever wealfare check day. The calling of contractors to replace whole walls of homes on the reservations, because it was easier to put a hole in the bathroom wall and use the tub as a trough to feed the horses.

      Its these images and common beliefes of the FN that need to change. And I fear that until they are addressed in a public veiw, this distain from the average joe over such benifits (not that it really is one) will sadly continue.

      THe best one can do is correct the average person and hope for the best.

  10. Sean says:

    Beautiful writing – thanks for sharing and enlightening things! All the very best.

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  12. Ham Banner says:

    I just wanted to mention something that people may find interesting about New Brunswick. Status Indians must pay consumption tax (HST) on all goods purchased, unless they have it delivered by a particular company.

    From a court ruling on the issue: “New Brunswick’s Social Services and Education Tax Act levies a tax on items sold for consumption at the time of the sale. In 1993, a provision giving status Indians an exemption from paying provincial sales tax on goods purchased off‑reserve for on‑reserve use was repealed so that only goods and services purchased on reserve lands or delivered there by the vendor were sales tax exempt.”

    New Brunswick has taken the step to deny tax exemption to status indians unless they have the goods delivered at their own expense directly to the reserve. They cannot merely show a “status card” and claim their exemption. The courts in NB contest that the tax exemption only applies when the location of the transaction is on the reserve itself and does not extend to transactions that occur off the reserves.

    In this way, many status indians in New Brunswick pay taxes when they purchase goods because their tax savings is eaten up by delivery fees to the reserve. It’s a hidden tax, if you want to consider it that way. I’m not sure if any other provinces have done anything similar.

  13. korahomes says:

    Consider writing a book a donate to a cause noteworthy to help those you are advocating for. Your words are strong but that action will be as strong.

    On another note, do you know of any resources I could look at to familiar myself with the Canadian governmental system. I am greatly interested in your posts but it is hard to break down as I am unfamiliar with terms, etc. I’m drawing great comparisons to how things work with the United States. 1) I was unaware they had reserves, which I am guessing is similar to the reservations of the United States and Australia. But I cannot figure out if the Nations are sovereign as they are to be in the United States. I’m also guessing if they are sovereign, this must vary greatly from each reserve as it does here too.

    Thank you for enlightening me.

  14. Doug says:

    I have argued this point numerous times and well said by you. I pay taxes because I like to work and i like the place i work at. I have also worked where I did not pay taxes. Taxation is part governent. We live in a society today where we can remember and cherish the traditional ways but we will never go back to them, we must move forward. We have embraced this system for so long, depended upon it, now is the time to use it to our advantage.

  15. Crystal W. says:

    Great article. I would have loved to see the further break down of tax exempt incomes. How many on – reserve people are unemployed, which is, of course, most!, and how many make less than a taxable amount that would be given back after they file their taxes in April, which is, again, most!. It is always a favorite game of mine on comment sections addressing this very issue. Will share this awesome piece!

    • Brian says:

      In alberta i knowticed something funny. The majority of employed first nations are from out of province, with extensive and promenint career refrences. That being said, I also find myself discriminated against in Alberta beause of my ethic looks. So here I argue how many of these unimployeed natives on-reserve are actually unimployed by choice and not discriminatory or medical factors?

      I admit that this concept is not widely accepted, but it is also a factor to consider, and its not white mans place to determine the factors that do or do not count for these debates, when they themselves ahve no real control over those non-nativs doing the same thing.

      • The issue depends on whether there is any available employment on reserve. As for ‘how many are unemployed by choice’ (imagining a scenario where employment is completely available and there are no barriers at all)…who knows? And how would you possibly make an accurate assessment? What factors would be considered, which dismissed out of hand? What we do know is that many reserves have almost no natural resources that can be exploited, and that many attempts at developing an economic base have been thwarted again and again.

  16. Joyce says:

    You have a great gift, Apihtawikosisan. Thank you for exercising it and shining such a bright light. I have paid taxes all my life and attempted to confront those who angrily tell me that Indians don’t pay taxes. Now, thanks to your writing and sharing I have some better armour; the reflection might spring back to the speaker. Please keep up the great work.

  17. Rick says:

    I think it is great that you have inspired so much discussion and thought by so many. Some people will never look beyond the sound bite or preconceived notions they hold but I believe one has to start somewhere, and you have made a great start. FYI, here are a few numbers that i have run to add perspective:
    (Population and budget figures from Wikipedia)
    Ontario budget expenditure – $129,000,000,000
    Ontario population – 13,100,000
    Expenditure per person – $9,847

    Federal budget expenditure – $280,500,000,000
    Canadian population – 34,673,000
    Expenditure per person – $8,090

    Total expenditure per person in Ontario by Federal and Ontario Government – $17,940

    Expenditure on Attawapiscat by Federal and Ontario Government (from audited statements)
    Indian and Northern Affairs – $17,064,573
    Health and Welfare $ 1,340,260
    Ontario $ 4,730,435
    Total $ 23,135,268
    There are over 2800 members of Attawapiskat First Nation, but the local on-reserve population was 1,929[3] in 2010 (from Wikipedia).
    Total expenditure per on-reserve person in Attawapiscat by Federal and Ontario Government – $11,993

    • Tanya says:

      Brilliant!!!

    • Beccy says:

      Canadian Government contributes marginally less money to the people who contribute less to Canadian Society. Makes sense to me.

      • If that were true, settlers would be receiving less in the way of public funds, since almost ALL of the wealth generated in this country comes from primary resources….land that belonged to indigenous peoples. If there was a fair accounting of just how much wealth has been extracted from lands supposedly lost to Treaties, you can bet that FNs would be reaping a far higher percentage of the ‘cut’ than they currently are.

        And that makes a heck of a lot more sense to me.

        • Brian says:

          I must disagree based on the simple fact that while your correct that canada’s current resources are from these lans that originally belonged to the first nationsl the fact that the first natins never utilized them at the time of their loss leaves the argument that these resources were worthless to the first nations. And that these resopurces only became vaulible due to settlers, thus while the property may be first nations agurably, the value was set by settlers.

          as for current system failures with basic ammenitites like education and health care… those are dwindled because of overtaxation to the middle class workers, with exemptions going to the wealthy or the poor, and the failure of all those people who call canada their home, taking responibility with making sure the government dos not misspend our money. It was not first nations who stole canadian tax dollars and made a standard golf ball with G.W. Bush named upon it for a small cost of 100 million dollars, but it was everybodies responcibility to make Jean Cretchain hang for high treason. We didnt hang him, and we lost that money, meaning that when i have kids, i will be paying a grand a year per kid for school fees so my kids can get their “free” education

          • “Never utilised them” is a common theme which actually means, “did not voraciously extract them the way that settlers have, with no care for the environment.” And frankly, if that is the standard, who would want to live up to it?

            The FACT is, these whether or not indigenous peoples would have engaged in voracious extraction is not the point. Those resources have been taken from our territories and we have not been the ones to profit. If I walk onto your land, and harvest all your crops and sell them, can I then turn around and say it was justified because you were going to eat them instead?

            In any other circumstance, not involving indigenous peoples, that sort of thing would be compensated. But when it comes to us, settlers love to argue, “you weren’t using it! We took it by force and that is legitimate!” Even under settler common and civil law regimes, that argument does not fly.

          • Johne Canuck says:

            The natives NEVER owned the lands. They had territories. The Europeans brought the concept of owning the land. All arguments spin from this one fact. The Europeans could NOT give the land that they did not own in the first place. THEY claimed it.

        • Rena Kinney says:

          Please excuse me for butting in, I have just found this info online and that info is as follows: The Native people have over 2 trillion dollars in TRUST and the TRUSTEE is the gov’t of the day. The interest garnered from these TRUSTS is 35 Billion a year. Those monies come from natural resources that have been extracted from Natives Lands. The money the Natives get from the gov’t each year is their own money. Not a penny of tax payer money has been used by the Natives for 150 years. The gov’ts have dipped into those trusts for various expenditures like infrastructures for Canada (not reserve lands) CN Railway, the Welland Canal to Osgoode Hall, among many others. Just in recent years the stimulus money when the economy was down came from these TRUSTS. The Supreme Court of Canada has ruled that the gov’t hand over these TRUSTS to trustees selected by individual First Nations. Yet the gov’t refuses. Why? Because they do not have all that cash on hand, and any cash that is supposed to be there is used for our benefit as cash flow for the gov’t. Just thought someone would appreciate this info. the following are the links to check for yourselves: http://www.aandc-aandc.gc.ca/eng/1100100032353#chp8 and http://www.aadnc-aandc.gc.ca/eng/1100100032353#annb

  18. don says:

    Great blog…thanks. Can’t believe the amount of time and effort you put into this. And it is so good to read comments that were not angey and meanspirited.

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  20. memebot says:

    âpihtawikosisân;

    I just came across this post on Twitter regarding funds that Bands get from the government.

    https://twitter.com/#!/CometsMum/status/145351310118633473

    The post makes reference to this document:

    http://www.aadnc-aandc.gc.ca/eng/1100100032353#chp8

    Now, the way I understand it, is that money that First Nations bands receive from the government does NOT come from Canadian taxpayers pockets but is held in trust from funds derived from natural resources, settlements of claims and fines. I’ve heard this said before, but I never actually investigated these claims. Could you perhaps clarify this point? Am I understanding this correctly?

    • Honestly…I’ve seen this said before and I have yet to see any evidence…certainly not of INAC’s budget being drawn from any trust accounts. It seems to be based on the idea that the government really did put every cent into Indian Trust Accounts and actually applied compound interest on it once that became a legal requirement. Of course, the compound interest would have to have been applied to the entire principal over a hundred years or more (no withdrawals from the Trust Accounts, when you can see that in most cases, those funds were indeed accessed over the years). In fact, many specific claims are based on mismanagement of those Trust funds. The amount referred to ($10 billion) accords with claim against the U.S. federal government claiming that the government lost $10 billion held in trust….I’ve also seen it claimed the full amount is $2 trillion and the billions of dollars are annual interest.

      The whole thing comes across as a bit hokey to me. I’ve investigated somewhat, but haven’t dug super deep. I haven’t found anything but the claim itself, repeated often in comment sections…and one reference to a court case possibly being launched on this basis back in 2009. http://chiefs-of-ontario.org/PageContent/Default.aspx?SectionHeadlineID=153

      I’d love to see more information, but I’m not going to chase after such a thin thread. You can’t even get the government to give you full compensation in cases where there was a clear breach…the chances of getting anywhere with this theory are slim to none right now.

      • memebot says:

        Thanks for the response. This argument was something I’ve seen brought up from time to time, but I was never certain if there was any strength to it.

        • Brian says:

          The numbers do look like a low compound intrest rate afixed to the base total of the 2 trillion dollar asset. so the 35 billion is a possible genertion annually. The main question is what the actual base factor is, and what its invested in. If you find that out you will be able to calculate the actual worth.

      • Denny Eddy says:

        First let me say I am overwhelmed at the amount of work you have put in to this presentation and your rational approach to answering all of the posters.
        I only intended to read your initial tax information and became mesmerized to the point I had to read the complete story.
        I took the liberty of going to a government site to check on the report of “Indian Trust Funds” and I believe you would benefit from a visit to the following site:
        http://www.aadnc-aandc.gc.ca/eng/1100100032353#chp8
        This is the site for the manual (157pages) that regulates all government revenue (consolidated revenue fund/CRF) and will provide the information you need to understand the moneys that government holds in trust and disseminates to first Nations.
        How far you follow this info may well be determined by how many years you live but I can tell you that I am a graduate (2005) of the inaugural First Nations Studies Program at the University of British Columbia and the most striking lesson I took from the program is the need for education of Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal people in the real history of this country.
        I think you are doing a phenomenal job of inspiring that pursuit and encourage you to continue in the sure knowledge that your guidance will be rewarded.
        It took generations to create the problems we face today and will most likely take generations to resolve them but every journey begins with the first step.
        Thanks for shining your light on the path on the path to understanding…
        Denny Eddy

  21. John Unruh says:

    Hi. I came looking for information and understanding and ended up enjoying all your comments. I’m a typical Canadian of Russian Mennonite descent. My people came to this country ignorant of aboriginal issues and many in our ethno-cultural group still do not understand what is involved, including myself, though I am attempting to educate myself. I believe the current zeitgeist of many Mennonites is that they were expunged from their rightful lands on several occasions and raped, burned, and pillaged on a genocidal level on at least one occasion. Many of them simply do not understand the concept of historic land claims. They have always simply collected what was not taken from them when things went sour and left to find another place in the world to live . Either that, or stay to die violently or starve to death. It’s a repeated cycle that is as much a part of their lore as anything else. This kind of immigration pattern is also the experience of many other Canadians, including a significant portion of the original French and British. Given this history, it may be easier to understand why many Canadians do not understand current First Nations and aboriginal issues, on the most visceral level. Their ancestors never had the opportunity to defend their rights on their ancestral lands. When these Canadians complain about tax exemptions under the Indian Act, they are not really complaining about the tax exemptions, or the money involved, they are complaining about the fact that their people also suffered and died at the hands of imperialist or other invaders, or their own governments, and nobody ever lifted a finger to compensate them or assist them after their losses. They came to these lands (Canada) and simply survived. When these same people listen to First Nations and aboriginal complaints regarding ancestral rights, they are probably more envious or jealous than anything, and because of that, frustrated. On a side note, many of them have also paid the price of losing their cultural identity as well, a bitter pill to swallow for anyone.

    Regarding the NGO and church tax exemption, I can only say that these are organizations whose sole purpose is to benefit the lives of others. Of course they should be tax exempt.

    I’m sure my own personal frustration with this discussion is showing through as well, and for that I apologize, though I will risk saying that perhaps a little empathy for the average Canadian is deserved in future discussions regarding the issues in this thread (both in this thread and outside of it). That alone would likely go a long way to encouraging more empathy from the average Canadian. I, for one, am more than willing to give it.

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  23. Russell Burton says:

    I have recently received my Bill C-3 Gender Equity Indian Status. I have been working on reserve for the last five years so was under the impression that I would be able to collect income tax refunds due to now being exempt. Apparently, this is not the case, CRA has informed me that only income earned on reserve after January 31, 2011 is subject to exemption. I am aware of individuals who received Indian Status later in life (other than through Bill C-3) and were able claim retroactive income tax refunds. What gives? Why the double standard for Bill C-3 applicants who have already missed out on benefts for most of their lives?

    • Interesting…I haven’t read the full text of the bill, I wonder if that’s a specific provision? I’ll have to look at it! Seems completely ridiculous, yet unsurprising for this government.

  24. kaly says:

    first of all YES WE DO PAY TAXES YOU IDIOT EVEN ON RESERVE YOUR STILL PAYING INTO SOMETHING !!! MY FIANCE OF HAS BEEN WORKING FOR HIS WHOLE LIFE AND HES AN INDIAN WITH A TREATY CARD AND HE PAYS TAXES EVERY YEAR SO DONT GO AND THINK WE DONT PAY TAXES EVERYONE DOES WHO WORKS YOU MORON I DONT KNOW WHY PEOPLE THINK THIS LIKE SERIOUSLY IT PISSES ME OFF AND WHAT YOUR THINKING OF IS THE INDIANS THAT GO ON WELFARE THERE THE ONES THAT DONT PAY TAXES EVEN THE WHITE PPL THAT ARE ON WELFARE DONT PAY TAXES IF YOU DONT WORK YOU DONT PAY TAXES DUH ITS SIMPLE AS THAT GET YOUR FACTS STRAIGHT BEFORE YOU BURN ALL OF US

  25. Beccy says:

    FN reserves should be completely and totally autonomous from Canada. They can exist by themselves as their own nations, pay no taxes to the Canadian Government, and supply their own services. This, in effect, renders them as their own country that is not a country. They would need to be self sufficient, just like they want. If they want Canadian services off-reseve, they will be treated as foreign nationals, like any American would be.

    Does this sound like a good idea?

    In my opinion, this system of “grey area” with FN is the root of the problem. They either need to be made totally autonomous nations, or folded into the Canadian system completely.

    • What should be done with the tens of thousands of square miles of never-ceded land, I wonder? If Canada wants autonomy from First Nations, it’s going to have to figure out what to do with a significantly smaller land base. The “this option or that one” needs to be looked at through more than the colonial lens.

      I for one am not willing to accept Canada’s assertion of sovereignty as an unshakable and unquestionable fact in order to start entertaining ‘see how far FNs will get without us, hah!’ scenarios.

  26. Brian says:

    Hey

    um i dont know if anyone answered your question about the tax exemptions for the church and the non-profit corperations, so if they have then cool if not this may help.
    Churches get tax immunity for two main reasons, from the research i have done. The first is international relations, Vatican city is seen and treated in many aspects as a country of its own, and each vhurch is protected by international laws and are seen as “embassies”. This would create an international taxation from the church that could not be incorperated into your countries taxation laws. In canada our taxes seem heavy, but switerland apparently pay 40-50% in income taxes, while other countries like the usa pay much lower, and that makes it hard for the church to set an acceptible amount. The other reason is that the church was build, funded, and supported by its community, via donations and collections. Thus the church was built on the good will of others comming together to build a house representing the best ideas of man. Taxing that would be counterproductive, and a sign of greed, which by religio’s is consider a deadly sin.
    The second point is also the standpoint of a non-profit company. its a compnay based on the donations of others to acheive a specified goal. Legally donated money must be spent on what it was donated for, taxation is not somethin anyone dontates for, and taxing donations is taking as both theift and afixing money to a pedistle over human life.

    these are my understandings, and they can be very wrong, but I think thats why they are immune.

    I HOWEVER have a question, if I may.
    1) I have reason to believe that I have native ancestory, and I was wondering what exactly would be needed to prove anything if it comes from a great grandmother who would have been removed form the indan roll back in 1901 as she whould have married a non-native.

  27. Picture Pia says:

    Thanks for an excellent overview and explanation of tax rules for status indian in Canada. Im not status indian – originally from Norway – but was curious about the taxation rules as I have heard a lot of things (that – especially as a lawyer – do not make much sense to me….). Now, it does make sense, and I realize alot of what I have heard, was a misconception and not true. I will make sure to set the record straight next time someone makes silly comments about how status indians do not pay taxes :)

  28. Thank you for the forum. I’d want to have all FN people who have Status Cards to have portable tax rights. This would ensure that no FN person no matter where they live, on reserve or off, would have to pay income tax – Federal or Provincial.
    The reasoning behind this is that it takes into account that all FN people and their FN descendents have lost resources, goods and opportunities that they should have been able to have to maintain themselves, but for what was wrought on their ancestors in the last several hundred years. In a sense all FN people, and their ancestors, have ‘paid’ more than their share of taxes to last them for their lifetime and that of all their Status descendents.
    Furthermore if all the “help” that is provided to FN people on reserves (or in urban areas) through social services, education, health, water, sanitation, make-work projects, housing, community projects, etc, etc, was added up it would total to much more, and be found to be much less effective or sustainable than providing money through tax breaks. A tax break on individual income tax would provide great motivation for FN people to try to get jobs that give them the tax break. It would be directly targetting each individual FN person for a tax break by who has found a job that puts them into a tax paying bracket.
    In this scenario the individuals’ motivation, intiative, higher education, determination, moxy and whatever else they put into getting a well paying job is rewarded by the government by allowing them a tax break. This could lead to a virtuous spiral with the greatest impact on the perceived value of education for children and the value of staying healthty.
    The whole FN community would benefit greatly from many FN people becoming better off, both on reserves and off the reserves. With portable tax breaks FN people could freely move to where the jobs are and live where they want to live. Currently in order to take maximum advantage of services, housing or whatever tax breaks there are FN people must live on their reserves.
    FN people should live where it makes the most sense for them to do so and pursue whatever specialized fields of study and careers in large urban centres if they have the motivation and brilliance of mind to do so, and when they succeed in getting a job that puts them into a tax paying bracket they should be given that extra bonus for their efforts by not having to pay personal production tax.
    Currently the most prevalent tax excemptions in Ontario for FN are consumer taxes, the more you consume of goods the more taxes you save paying. Consumer tax exemptions for certain products such as tobacco and alcohol create market distortions by those who recognize the money making opportunities that were unwittingly created.
    I would like to see a Bill passed through Federal Parliament to provide portable tax rights to not have to pay any personal income tax to every Status FN person.

  29. Thanks for presenting this information in a clear and constructive way.

  30. Pingback: Eradicating Ecocide in Canada - Court refutes Harper government: Attawapiskat was not financially mismanaged

  31. Pingback: » Blog Archive » Idle No More Rally and Discussion – Guelph January 12th, 2013

  32. All excessive benefits for natives in Canada has done is created a culture of dependency.

    • If all you see is ‘benefits’ without acknowledging the vast gulf in funding of equal services in FN communities compared to non-native communities, then you are accepting a very skewed version of reality.

    • Waiting for my windfall says:

      Raymond, can you please tell me where I can access some of these ‘excessive benefits’? After 46 years I received my Indian Status through Bill C-3 and the only benefits I have access to are a very restricted list of health benefits which I have not yet used. So please tell me where and when can I get all my free stuff?

  33. Pingback: idle no more | Pearltrees

  34. claire says:

    Just stumbled across your blog, thank you so much for your sass, for sharing your knowledge and being so dedicated in responding to comments! Very admirable!!

  35. Rita alexis says:

    Thank you explaining this succinctly and clearly. What astonished me most in reading this was the subtle way the taxation benefits are established to mean that FN people can only really benefit if they stay on the reserves. Ho womanly non FN people would respond positively of told that they could only receive taxation benefits if they confined themselves and their activities to a designated area and did not function outside these boundaries. These subtleties are not so subtle when looked at with an open mind but are quite discriminatory and very sad.

  36. Margie Davis says:

    Good article, well done! However, let me just add one thing: you are a people whose lands were taken by invaders. Why do you have to explain anything to someone who could easily look all this up? You don’t have to dance around for invaders. You don’t owe them any answers or explanations. People who believe that Indians don’t pay taxes close down at explanations, then wake up, sort of shake themselves and say, “Indians don’t pay taxes!” Recently a woman I know told me she’d be ok with immigrants (she means undocumented Mexicans) if only they paid taxes. So I pointed out that they do pay taxes – they buy stuff, they work and pay into the US Soc. Security system, etc. She wrote back, “well, I’d be ok with them if they just paid taxes.” Huh???? From now on, my answer is going to be “bite me.” I suggest you do the same, or just keep reprinting your fine article. Then you won’t have to drink so much coffee. margie davis (Muisca people, Colombia)

    • I wouldn’t put all this work into these articles if I didn’t feel it was actually reaching people. And overwhelmingly, since I began these discussions, it has been the case that non-natives have said this information helped them understand the situation better. No, I don’t feel I owe it to anyone, but I do it because I think it’s important. These articles do help me save time though, and I refer people to them often when the issue comes up :)

  37. sewsavvymama says:

    Good article… most Natives and Inuit that live in the North pay taxes. As far as I remember there is only one tiny little reserve in Hay River NWT. SO however many people up there, the vast majority that are registered indigenous, they ALL pay taxes. (When I say “North”- I mean the NWT and Nunavut, not too sure about the Yukon)

  38. My take-away: this discussion has nothing to do with actual tax dollars and everything to do with the perceived relationship between FN and the ROC. If, therefore, one wants to promote divergence between the two — as many posters above clearly want to do then non-taxation of on-reserve Status Indians is a great way to do it. If, by contrast, one wants to eliminate one of the main popular complaints in the ROC against FN, purely symbolic as it may be, it’s time to tax on-reserve Status Indians. It’s really a question of whether confrontation or reconciliation will lead to a better future for us all.

  39. Daniel Wilson says:

    Great post. I thought you might enjoy this bit of extra math I did on the subject back in 2011 http://this.org/magazine/2011/06/15/first-nations-tax-exemption/

  40. Judith Pine says:

    Thank you for the explanation of the taxing system. Time and time again I have had it thrown in my face how I get everything free. When I try to explain, I’m told I’m lying. I am Aboriginal but have never lived on the reserve and have paid taxes all my life. If you don’t mind I may link to your article in my next article.
    Again thank you
    Judith Pine.

  41. rasunah@shaw.ca says:

    wonderful article which opens up discussion & begins to give a bigger picture…one thing not mentioned is agreements a number of First Nations have made with the Crown which enables them to pay taxes — i live on the Burrard reserve & we pay taxes & services to the FN for condo developments on the reserve. in addition, first nations who do not live on the reserve, even if most of the work they do is on reserve, pay income tax. the number of ‘regulations’ surrounding what taxes Indians must pay or do not pay must be accompanied by all kinds of forms submitted to the government, so many no single person has an accurate idea which applies to him/herself at any given time – finding out whether you are tax exempt for anything for most people is a waste of time. so thanks for even daring to put something coherent together!

  42. Well done. I am very pleasantly surprised at your well researched and thoughtful articles but more importantly your educated and thoughtful responses to people who are much less qualified or just simply morons who choose to pick a fight with you.
    Your article on taxation is one of the best I have seen on a complex and varied subject that has many nuances across this great country of ours. It is also incredibly misunderstood by both sides of the fence you happen to sit on. I have encountered too many First Nation people who cast stones at taxation without first understanding how it works and what it is ultimately supposed to do when properly used by our people. It is, at its core, simply another tool for us when we are exercising our jurisdiction.
    If it is used properly it can assist us in solving some of our problems with housing (lack of equity on-reserve), lack of services (or using limited funding to pay for services), clean water…etc. One of the realities is that most rural communities cannot use either real property or taxing authorities without any real economy on-reserve or if they are not right next to a municipality.
    Keep up the good work and do not be discouraged by the negativity. When you shine a light in a cave you might not like what you see.

  43. NATIVE TAXATION DEBATES DEMYSTIFIED ~

    Another big Yes and thank-you âpihtawikosisân ….

    I too have these questions aimed at me as I support the idle No More movement and the life long support I have given my indigenous brothers and sisters. I am so grateful for all the hard work done by individuals like yourself. Demystifying these wrong headed and wrong hearted attacks and assumptions on the native community is so healthy and empowering. Our hearts are our shields and the educated mind a talking stick for all to share. I find this movement exciting, invigorating, faith building and I sense we will emerge into a new way of understanding …. all in due time. Patience the operative word. Great teach-in last night with a UVIC Indigenous governance panel …. more interactions, and dialogue are needed…especially with the youth. Be creative folks and find ways to sit together . For example, we have stumbled when there is a question, so we ask with Google at hand to search out answers through universities, blogs and authenticated sources for objective and progressive dialogue toward a better understanding between our indigenous brothers and sisters. Idle No More is a movement of the people and it’s time long over due here in Canada. I feel like when the East Berlin wall was torn down by the hands of the people ….. no more walls of misunderatanding and divisiveness, THAT is what the government and fearful people want. <3

    “Faith is taking the first step even when you can't see the whole staircase.”
    ― Martin Luther King Jr.

  44. Hi Attawapiskat, May I make a suggestion for another topic of discussion ? The other battle front for me ( a part Ojibway, part euro-canadian ) when having to discuss the intricacies of First nations obstacles and issues is the comparative wages of Chiefs, councilors and the budgets they are given to work with for the communities. The accountability, and scrutiny of these expenses by government. This needs to be clarified… this is a clip my cousin sent who is anti-idle no more…. http://youtu.be/1JWTotEc_XA

    spirit to spirit
    leanne

  45. Sandra Bray says:

    Thank you. Factual information like in this article, is exactly what I, as a non-native, need to know.

  46. DKing says:

    (Please share): So much for stereotypes: The Four Canadian Provinces where the highest overall percentage of their population is Aboriginal have the lowest unemployment rates, while those Canadian provinces where Aboriginal peoples make up the smallest percentage of the total overall provincial populations have by far the highest unemployment rates, despite the fact that most Aboriginal communities are in the resource rich north.

    Nearly half the Aboriginal population is under 25. The National Aboriginal unemployment rate (13.9%) is slightly lower than the National unemployment rate for youth under 25 (15.3% while the “real” youth national unemployment rate is 19.7%). In 2009, after the recession hit, the national rate of “employment” for Aboriginal people was 57% compared to 61% for non-Aboriginal people. 53% of Aboriginal peoples now live off reserve, a trend that mirrors the rest of Canada. Prior to WWII, 60% of Canadians lived in small towns and rural areas. Outside of immigration, Aboriginal peoples are the fastest and only increasing Canadian demographic. By 2031, Aboriginal peoples will make up to 25% of the total provincial population of Saskatchewan and over 21% of the total population of Manitoba. The unemployment rate of Aboriginal peoples directly correlates to their 50% youth rate and the employment rates within their various geographical locations, similar to the employment rates of non-Aboriginals, such as youth and the Maritime Provinces.

    Province Unemployment rate (seasonally adjusted as of February 2012)

    Newfoundland and Labrador—13.5 (4.7% of total provincial population are Aboriginal)
    Prince Edward Island—11.2 (1.3% of total provincial population are Aboriginal)
    Nova Scotia—8.4 (2.7% of total provincial population are Aboriginal)
    New Brunswick—9.5 (2.5% of total provincial population are Aboriginal)
    Quebec—8.4 (1.5% of total provincial population are Aboriginal)
    Ontario—8.1 (2% of total provincial population are Aboriginal)
    Manitoba—5.4 (15.5% of total provincial population are Aboriginal)
    Saskatchewan—5.0 (14.9% of total provincial population are Aboriginal)
    Alberta—4.9 (5.8% of total provincial population are Aboriginal)
    British Columbia—7.1 (4.8% of total provincial population are Aboriginal)

    Canada is the second largest country in the world in terms of land mass, less than one-half a percent of this land is reserved for Indians, while in the United States of America, 3% of the total land mass is reserved for Indians. Also, in the United States, one need only prove 1/16th Aboriginal ancestry to qualify for Indian Status.

    Nearly 50% of Canadian Aboriginal population is under 25, fastest growing demographic and only Canadian demographic on the increase. When the 2008 recession hit, the unemployment rate for Aboriginal people over 15 was 10.4% while it was 6.0% for non-Aboriginal people. In 2009, these rates rose to 13.9% for Aboriginal people and 8.1% for non-Aboriginal people. In 2009, the rate of Employment for Aboriginal people was 57% compared with 61.8% for non-Aboriginal people. (Data from Stats Canada)

  47. DKing says:

    Interesting data. Small town and rural Canada is literally dependent on provincial and federal tax transfers. 39% of a municipality, town or city’s revenues come from property tax. The rest comes from provincial and federal tax transfers. 53 cents of every federal tax dollar (118 billion) goes to tax transfers. In addition, Over 20 percent of Canadians work for the government, including everyone from teachers, police, health, bureaucrats, roads, military, etc. Military past and present personnel account for 7 cents out of every federal tax dollar, 15 billion per year. The data paints a bleak picture for small town and rural Canada, who are already dependent on tax transfers to survive. In the near future, Canada’s revenues will increasingly come primarily from large cities (populations over 100,000) and natural resource revenues.

    Prior to WWII, 60% of Canadians lived in small town and rural Canada and manufacturing accounted for 25% of the economy. Today, manufacturing is down to less than 13% of the economy, while natural resource harvesting is now over 15% (was just over 11% in 2006) and rising. Most of the natural resources are in northern Canada. Post-WW II, small town and rural Canada has seen major emigration to cities and population decline, coinciding with the decline in manufacturing. Meanwhile, city populations have exploded. Small town and rural Canada has seen massive youth emigration, a rising disproportionate number of their population is retired and collecting government pensions, and the primary employer is government.

    96% of all visible minorities (Stats Canada excludes Aboriginals from this definition) who immigrate to Canada live in cities with a population over 100,000. While Canada spends nearly 20 Billion a year on average to integrate immigrants, being only 2% live in northern Canada and 96% live in large cities with a population over 100,000, they are sustainable long term. Toronto is now over 50% visible minority, Markham 65%, while a large number of B.C.’s large cities are majority visible minority already, some as high as 65%. By 2031, 65% of Toronto will be visible minority, and sometime between 2040-2050, white Canadians of European decent will still be the largest ethnic group, but will no longer be the majority. About 25% of all visible minorities will be Chinese with another 25% of visible minorities being from East Indian. The Aboriginal population will account for somewhere between 10-12% of the National population and they will be somewhere between 28-35% of Saskatchewan’s and 25-30% of Manitoba’s over all population. However, just over 15% of the Aboriginal population will be living in cities with a population over 100,000, with the majority living in the resource rich lands, and most First Nations (over 120 of Canada’s 615-20 reserves have a property tax regime) will live off reserve while Inuit and Metis never had reserves. 71% of the 96% visible minorities who will live in cities with a population of over 100,000 by 2031, will live in Toronto, Vancouver and Montreal. By 2040-50, the vast majority of Canadian cities with a population over 100,000 will be populated by visible minorities, while rural and small town Canada will remain majority white Canadians of European decent, most of whom can trace their Canadian ancestry to the earliest European settlers; however, the two prime regions they are dependent on to subsidize them, northern natural resources and large cities with populations over 100,000, will be predominantly non-white.

    In addition, we are already witnessing increased social problem in rural and small town Canada that is predominately and overwhelmingly white, in particular, rural and small town Ontario has a crystal meth epidemic. Bruce and Grey Counties have an alcohol consumption rate 16% higher than the National Average, and as reported in the January 16th addition of the Walkerton Herald Times (yes that Walkerton) by Dr. Hazel Lynn, “‘Almost 45 per cent of our young women under age 20 are smoking when they’re pregnant and the provincial average is about 20 per cent for that age group,’ said Lynn, who went on to say that the provincial average for pregnant women of all ages is 12 per cent while in Grey and Bruce [counties] it’s double that number.” Lynn attributed this to the high rate of teenage pregnancies and a “lack of young professional mother’s in their 30s and 40s” to act as role models. Overall, be it alcohol consumption, wife abuse, etc., in regards to social statistics, the area is above the national average, and at least over 90-95% of the population is white Canadian. (Data provided by Statistics Canada)

  48. Thunderbird Stands says:

    HERE IS THE REMEDY!!! LOOK AT THESE LINKS BELOW….DO YOUR DUE DILLIGENCE AND STAND IDLE NO MORE!! I say just evict and convict the politicians and the fictions they represent. There is no lawful governance and I believe we all have said it, NO CONSENT = NO JURISDICTION!! We are Sovereign and we deny consent to be infringed by any and all man made legislation all passed unlawfully since 1953. Treaties unfulfilled = automatic NULL AND VOID and unconscionable.THE TRUST HAS BEEN DISSOLVED ALONG WITH ANY AND ALL LEGISLATION, ACT OF PARLIAMENT, AND ANYTHING SIGNED AND PASSED SINCE 1953. Here is the solution, I believe we must be IDLE NO MORE and this of which I present in the links below is plausible….. PLEASE SHARE!! http://www.parliament.uk/about/how/laws/passage-bill/lords/lrds-royal-assent/ http://www.youtube.com/embed/oNnyctcE4eQ https://www.facebook.com/notes/robert-menard/opca-explained-why-a-most-recent-opinion-by-the-queens-bench-in-canada-exposes-t/393552850714421

  49. holly says:

    I live on a reserve and my job takes me out of town and I have to pay for board do I still have to pay taxes

  50. Wesley says:

    I’m Status Indian from madawaska First Nation New Brunswick .I live off reserve . I am a boilermaker welder. I work at various places in Alberta. What info I’m trying to get is, if I work on native land in Alberta , am I tax exempt? The second issue is trying to find out if these oil companies are on native land or not, I’m having a hard time getting answers, for example ,Kearl lake, cnrl, syncrude, mackay river, suncor , etc!!

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