First Nations stand up for rights against the HST

First Nations

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Saugeen First Nation Chief, Randall Kahgee (R) leads the way in protest of the HST

Saugeen First Nation joined other First Nation communities throughout the province on Monday in protesting the Harmonized Sales Tax (HST) to be implemented July 1st under the McGuinty Liberal Government.

Community rallies were held across Ontario on Monday in unity of a major rally that took place in the capital city of Ottawa.

Chief Randall Kahgee

The First Nations are protesting the loss of their inherited tax exemptions under the 1764 Treaty of Niagara.   "We are talking about relationships here," said Chief Kahgee, "that under the treaty were based on mutual respect, non-interference between the partners and the fact the one nation cannot tax another.  Treaties were solemn agreements and should never be lost in translation and this government has lost site of the basic principles of the relationship."

Standing in unity

According to former Chief Vernon Roote, "The Indian Act has a section that says all tax for Native peoples will be exempt and any goods that are purchased as personal property will be exempt.  That piece of legislation is the law put in place by  the Federal Government well over 100 years ago.  Over the course of time, the government and merchants have honoured the Provincial Sales Tax (PST) exemption but this new HST now puts everything in one basket  with no allowance to exempt the tax through the old method."

Under the proposed new HST, First Nation peoples will be required to pay tax 'at the register', keep all receipts and submit them at year-end for rebate.

"We have to be realistic about this," says Chief Kahgee.  "The rebate system doesn't make any sense as a lot of our people do not file income tax.  They are among the most marginalized peoples anywhere and to ask them to come up with more money at point of sale is almost impossible.  Up until June 7th, Mr. Harper's government refused to meet with us to discuss any part of the matter.  We are now running out of time and it is the 12th hour.  By holding protests, we are sending what we believe is a very strong message to both the Provincial and Federal governments as the impact of this tax will dispossess the most marginalized people in the country."

Rally organizer, Brenda Kahgee

"We are totally against the HST," said rally organizer, Brenda Kahgee.  "We were only asked Friday to organize a local rally in support of the main one being held in Ottawa and we are standing together not only in the hope the government will understand and recognize our native rights but also for all people across Canada who will be impacted by this tax."

Kahgee went on to say that the Federal Government has conceded nothing and that "...up until recently we have been treated as a jurisdictional ping-pong ball!"

Kahgee, a lawyer, stated emphatically,  "The HST is one of the most aggressive pieces of legislation I have ever seen and it went through in only two weeks with no parliamentary process.  Therefore, we are now left in a conundrum where the rules and laws are now different.  I'll say though that the days of unilateral decisions are done and that a spirit of reconciliation is required."

At the special Chiefs' Assembly held recently, Saugeen First Nation put forward a motion to affect a real resolution to the issue and up until June 7, they were refused.   According to Kahgee, "Even McGuinty said that he wanted to come to a resolution  and, here we are, at the 12th hour.  There has been no consultation about the HST implementation whatsoever."

Chief Kaghee (R) speaks to protesters

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Monday, June 14, 2010