In their latest affront to the people of Ontario, natives have demanded they be exempted from paying HST at the point-of-sale like the rest of us. Their demands were backed up with threats of blockades during this week’s G8 and G20 summits, according to interviews with officials at the negotiating table. And, of course, the tax break has prompted native leaders in British Columbia and Atlantic Canada to demand similar exemptions.
Time and again, we hear from aboriginals that they cannot be taxed because they are separate nations, and our federal and provincial governments seem to agree with them. Perhaps they are separate nations, but does that make them autonomous? Apparently not, since every time we turn around we hear more demands from native leaders for more money from Ottawa.
Yes, there were injustices committed in the past. Natives were abused, treaties dishonoured , Aboriginal lands stolen, Aboriginal cultures suppressed and Aboriginal peoples disempowered.
But they can’t have it both ways. They can’t demand to be treated as autonomous nations, refusing to abide by Canadian law and pay Canadian taxes, yet demand more and more money from Ottawa.
Native bands are political and cultural groups with values and customs distinct from those of other Canadians. This is pretty much what nations are when they inhabit areas with defined borders. Quebec, for example, is a nation.
To define Aboriginal peoples as nations, however, is not to say that they are nation-states. To be so requires them to be independent of Canada and that they certainly are not.
Government of Canada spending on programs directed towards Aboriginal people was $9.1 billion in 2005-06 up from $7.4 billion in 2000-01, an average annual increase of 4.3 per cent.
- Indian and Northern Affairs Canada provided about $6.1 billion—80 per cent for basic, province-type services for First Nations on reserve (e.g. education, social services, income assistance), where the Government has primary responsibility.
- Fifteen other federal departments and agencies, the largest of which is Health Canada, also provided about $3.0 billion for a wide variety of programs for First Nations on reserve, Inuit, Métis and off-reserve Aboriginal people.
When you add the tax exemptions natives enjoy to the direct expenditures by the Government of Canada, we get a staggering figure dwarfing government support to any other identifiable group in Canada. Remember that natives also enjoy all the other benefits non-natives enjoy.
So much for native independence.
It’s high time our governments, especially the Dalton McGuinty government, insisted that Aboriginals be subject to the same laws as the rest of us. Natives in Caledonia are not victims, but victimizers. When natives of the Whitefish River First Nation in Ontario planned to blockade the highway leading to Manitoulin Island over the May long weekend, they were not victims, they are victimizers.
Sooner or later, Canadians will get off their guilt trip and say enough is enough. If you add up all the money the Government of Canada has already paid out to natives in annual payments, tax-exemptions, land claims and the compound interest on all that money, I’m pretty sure we have compensated Aboriginals fairly for what Europeans took in the past few hundred years—it’s only money, but it’s a lot of money.
How much more are we expected to pay for the sins of the past?