OTTAWA, Dec. 14 /CNW/ - Association of Iroquois and Allied Indians' (AIAI) Grand Chief Randall Phillips spoke before the Senate Finance Committee today in a final attempt at securing a diplomatic resolution to concerns surrounding Ontario's pending Harmonized Sales Tax legislation. "I'm asking the Senate for an amendment that recognizes our Aboriginal and Treaty Right to tax immunity," says Grand Chief Phillips.
Treaties agreed to by AIAI member Nations and the Crown do not include any provisions or clauses on taxation of First Nation citizens. As such, First Nations have maintained a right to tax exemption status that pre-dates confederation. "AIAI's Chief Council has given me a job to do, and it's to fight the HST until the end. And that's what I'm doing," says Grand Chief Phillips, who worries that the new harmonized tax will put First Nations at an increased socio-economic disadvantage and violate treaty rights to tax immunity.
Grand Chief Phillips, along with Assembly of First Nation's Ontario Regional Chief Angus Toulouse presented a draft amendment to Senate Finance Committee members. The amendment would simply allow provinces that have First Nations tax exemptions in place, to be able to continue such exemptions. Ontario Premier Dalton McGuinty has already indicated he is willing to continue such practices, if given the green light from the federal government. "It's that green light that we're trying to secure," says Grand Chief Phillips.
Grand Chief Phillips goes on to say that since the Harmonized Sales Tax legislation was rushed through the house in record time, it has trampled on our rights to tax immunity. "The Senate can offer sober second thought," he says. "I hope they will take the opportunity to take a step back and ensure our rights, as recognized by both the Constitution and the Supreme Court of Canada, are upheld. Grand Chief Randall Phillips wanted to express the importance of, "The proposed amendment is a win win solution that allows the harmonized sales tax to occur while still preserving the existing tax exemptions for First Nations people in Ontario."
AIAI's Deputy Grand Chief, Chris McCormick adds that, "Nations cannot impose taxes on another nation. Our treaties have not given Canada the right to impose taxes on us. Few people remember that it was Canada which paid taxes to First Nations and they are still delinquent in their payments."
Ontario first unveiled its plans to introduce the Harmonized Sales Tax when it tabled its 2009 provincial budget in March. Exemptions are being considered for large corporations; however, First Nation's current point of sale tax exemption would cease to exist. First Nations were not consulted about this change, despite the fact that the Supreme Court of Canada has repeatedly ruled that the Crown has an obligation to consult and accommodate.
While Grand Chief Phillips hopes that the senate does accept the amendment proposed today, he did acknowledge that there may be other actions taken. "If we are unable to find a solution through political means today, First Nations will have no other choice but to consider legal challenges, and raise the issue at the international level. In the meantime, residents of Ontario and Canada may soon see more expressions of the people's anger and disappointment, as demonstrated through the rally and subsequent protest through the streets of Toronto earlier this month.
SOURCE ASSOCIATION OF IROQUOIS & ALLIED INDIANS
For further information: For further information: and to schedule an interview with Grand Chief Randall Phillips, contact: Sherry Huff, Communications Coordinator, Association of Iroquois and Allied Indians, 387 Princess Ave, London, ON, N8B 2A7, Office (519) 434-2761, Blackberry (519) 615-1367