Why First Nations Shouldn’t Pay HST

Last week, the Government of Ontario introduced legislation entrenching the Harmonized Sales Tax (HST) in Ontario beginning July 1, 2010.  There is a lot of mixed reviews, both for and against the HST.  There is no question, the one thing that the HST is sure to do, is continue the trend that Ontario is one of the most taxed jurisdictions in all of North America.

On most purchases, most people won’t know the difference.  Instead of seeing 8 per cent provincial Retail Sales Tax (RST or PST) and 5 per cent Goods and Services Tax (GST), consumers will see a flat 13 per cent HST on their receipts.

However, the population that will be most adversely affected and will see the most change will be First Nation people.

For the first time since the introduction of the provincial sales tax, First Nations people living on-reserve will be subject to the 8 per cent portion of the tax.  We will have to pay the entire brunt of the 13 per cent sales tax.

Since time immemorial… well, at least my time immemorial, I’ve been able to go into Walmart or The Source, or any other retailer for that matter, present my status card and receive a point-of-sale tax exemption of 8 percent.  In doing so I’d have to endure my share of customer service ignorance, fill out a monstrosity of forms and put up with verbal jibes from the rednecks standing in line behind me.  The more noise they make, the slower I fill out the form.  In one case, after a couple of comments, I reverted to filling out the exemption form left-handed.

If the retailer tried to mess with my right, I would either get an individual fired or go corporate on their ass.

In the end, I felt that the point-of-sale tax exemption was my right.  The contemporary Anishinaabe teaching is that we are supposed to exercise our rights or one day we may lose them.  Apparently that day has come.

But I have a bombshell for many of you.  And it may be difficult for me to say.  But here goes…

First Nations do NOT have the Treaty right to tax exemption.

There, I said it.  It makes me shudder but it’s entirely true.  The majority of our Treaties, certainly the 1850 Robinson Huron Treaty, does not make reference to taxation.  There are no references or right to tax exemption in most of the Treaties.  It’s a basic fact.

But the treaties said nothing of being subject to paying taxes either.

First Nations must assert that First Nations have the aboriginal right and the sovereign inherent right to be immune from foreign taxation.  Such a right is not only fundamental, it may be protected under international law.  For example:  the United States cannot enter sovereign Canadian territory and force Canadians to pay US taxes.

I think First Nations have a strong case in stating that Canada cannot assert unproven jurisdiction in First Nations’ traditional territory and force First Nations to pay Canadian taxes.

But paying the eight percent is no big deal, we can get it back at the end of the year, right?

Not exactly.  That’s what I thought.  That’s what First Nations leaders thought too.  That’s what a lot of people thought.

My latest research indicates that First Nation individuals are unable to claim a rebate for any purchases off-reserve unless it is delivered to reserve by the retailer’s official agent.

According to the HST/GST Information Update (B-039R3), “… If the purchaser uses his or her own vehicle to transport the property to the reserve, the acquisition is subject to the normal GST/HST rules.”

To their credit, the Government of Ontario is going to bat for First Nations on this issue.  The Minister of Finance and the Minister of Aboriginal Affairs have asked the Government of Canada to respect and continue the current practice of administering the point-of-sale exemption for First Nations.

However, that’s the whole issue: administration of the HST.

Ontario does not have a say in the administration of the tax.  Canada is holding all the cards on point-of-sale exemptions.  Ontario may request a certain point-of-sale exemption, but it’s Canada that has to agree to it.  Unfortunately, the issue of First Nation tax exemption is not a deal breaker for either party.

The biggest argument against First Nations paying the HST should be a socio-economic argument.

First Nations are the poorest of all Canadians.  The socio-economic gap between First Nations and the rest of Canada is staggering.  In Ontario, the unemployment rate for First Nation living on-reserve is at least 3 times higher than the rest of Ontario.  The average income in Ontario is over one third higher than the average income of First Nations people.  One in four First Nations children living on-reserve are growing up in poverty.

Now these same poor people are being asked to pay more and live on less.

Right now, those same red necks in shopping lines everywhere, are praising the changes.  They cite equality and fairness.  “Finally, those Indians are having to pay tax.  What’s fair is fair.”

I’m all for equality and fairness, but that’s a few generations away.  So let’s start with the concept of equity.

What will it take to equalize the unemployment gap?  What will it take to equalize the income gap?  What will it take to bring First Nations children out of poverty?

Forcing the poorest people to pay an additional 8 per cent won’t do it.



  1. Jason says:

    I’m not a First nations person, but i myself have many friends who live on first nations reserves, i do not support this HST b.s. at all, and i think it is wrong that your don’t hear more about what people are losing when this tax comes in..

    Very Well put.

  2. Carol says:

    It is WRONG, WRONG, WRONG, that First Nations Peoples have to pay ANY tax! They were here first and THEIR Country was invaded, their land and rights and freedoms taken away!!

    I am not a First Nations Person, however I feel very strongly about this; subjecting First Nations Peoples to HST tax is adding INSULT TO INJURY! They have been relegated to reserves, their Country and freedoms annexed, and now the european government wants to Tax First Nations Peoples as Canadian citizens….when they were forced into accepting european rule in the first place!!

  3. Crystal says:

    Hmmm? In May/09 Goulais quotes about the exemption being a treaty right in the Windspeaker

    “Anishinabek Nation spokesperson Bob Goulais said the organization has a good relationship with Minister of Revenue Dwight Duncan. Duncan is responsible for taxation, and Goulais said “the minister is open to concessions to ensure First Nations are a part of the process in the province.”

    Goulais says “First Nations need to be involved, and need to be involved in all decisions that affect them.”

    Goulais said the HST may also provide an opportunity to address other issues of tax exemption. He said the Anishinabek Nation wants to make sure point of sale exemption continues and to also include Goods and Services Tax .

    Goulais maintains tax exemption is not only Indian Act legislation, but is also a treaty right. And he said “we don’t want to see that right relegated to a rebate system,” as it currently is with the GST. The rebate system is something, Goulais said, they strongly oppose.”

    What made you change your mind about it being a treaty right?

    • Bob Goulais says:

      Good catch, Crystal. Thanks for holding me to that.

      There are some Treaties where it IS a treaty right. Just not my Treaty (Robinson Huron Treaty). It makes no reference to taxation at all. However, it is certainly a right in the sense that we have the right to immunity from taxation. More of an inherent or aboriginal right, than it is (technically) a treaty right. My main point is that we have a stronger argument on tax immunity and the economic rationale that we have legal ground to stand on, based solely on the Treaty.

  4. Sheri says:

    As I was sitting in my doctors office the other night, he and his computer guy were going over an anti virus program on the computer. They begin to talk about the HST, and they came to realize that the average person is going to have their yearly cost of living go up approx. $6000.00 per year. All those goods and services that are just taxed the GST will now have HST on it from 5% to 13%. Not looking forward to this at all as it is going to hit businesses too and they certainly are not going to want to give their employees raises to adjust for the higher cost of living. Those of us just getting by are no longer going to be able to just get by, its is certainly going to be harder.

  5. I oppose the HST., First Nations should not be paying that tax., ~ First Nations have given enough reasons to not pay that tax., ~ With the increase in such an offense., ~ the crime rate will increase dramatically., ~ It is noted that this is A crime for a crime ~ There is no adjustment., only to look to our own resour…ces that are feasibly available., ~ Some are rich in resource and some are not., ~ those are northern communities with high crime and suicide rates. This will only compliment the problem…. ~ this is clearly genocide in secret., ~ “still trying to kill the Indian?”., ~

  6. Mike says:

    HST Pfft wtf is our goverment thinking?I understand First Nation will be hit the hardest but so will the white man,just sitting back complaining and doing nothing about it seems to be a Canadian “norm” .I’d like to know who thinks up of this stuff look at the ECCO tax there ‘s another crock of ****.

    We as Canadians are taxed so much it’s absolutly rediculous and a shame that we agree to pay all these taxes.I work in retail and collect tax all day for the goverment….where’s my pay for that cause every sale I make is money for the goverment…….my employer payes me to collect money for them why does’t the goverment??

  7. Dwayne says:

    To understand the rights of First Nations people, you need to first educate yourselves in the history of the First Nations people. These are not priveledges, they are rights. And I agree on the fact that we should not have to be paying taxes. If anything we should have our own tax and be able to use the money from our tax to better our people and our future children.

  8. As of today., I have just heard we will be exempt from the New HST.

  9. Siobhan says:

    Wow, you are honestly so greedy and so ridiculous.
    Taxes are used to pay for development of communities and health care and if you live in Canada you should have to pay it!
    You are pissing so many people off because you probably spend your money on shit you don`t need.
    Because I`m pretty sure you get a big fat ass check every year and you don`t have to pay taxes at all. We the cocasion people of Canada are forced to pay a tax to provide health care. You get free health care because there are people living all across canada who work their asses off and pay taxes while you sit on your ass and refuse to pay taxes. Like you said there is nothing in the treaty agreements saying that you don`t have to pay taxes. So wtf are you doing?
    Every year the government gives you money and yet every year you ask for more.
    Stop feeding off everyone elses hard work and start paying taxes.

    • Bob Goulais says:

      You’re intolerance will certainly breed contempt, and for that, I’m sorry. Jealousy and hatred will get you no where, except that gnawing feeling and pain that will never go away. FYI, I do pay income tax, property tax, health tax. I pay a mortgage. I pay for school. So, I’m happy that my tax dollars (and the incredible riches that Canada has obtained from the treaties and our rich natural resources) will go to one day treat your disorder. Be well.

      • Siobhan says:

        It’s not that, I’m perfectly fine and I think that you complaining about you not having to pay that tax is ridiculous. If you don’t have to pay it why should I. Trust me this is not something that gnaws at my stomach, quite honestly I couldn’t give a ****, but when arrogant people like you write blogs like this it is upsetting that all you ever do is ask for more.

      • André says:

        First of all I want to start and say that I have nothing against first nations people. But what I do have a problem with is that Bob Goulais believes Siobhan has some sort of disorder since she doesn’t agree with him! “I’m happy that my tax dollars will go to one day treat your disorder” (Bob Goulais)
        I am proud to live in a country were free speech is encouraged and I believe everyone has the right to give their opinions, however, I do NOT believe someone has a “disorder” if they don’t agree with me!

        • Bob Goulais says:

          I think that ignorance, anger and contempt are not a healthy means of “free speech”. Hence the disorder comment.

          But you’re right, Andre. It’s great to live in a society where we can provide informed comments. Miigwetch.