December 3, 2003
To All First Nations and Tribal Councils
RE: NBBC Taxation Task Group
The Native Brotherhood of BC concluded a successful 72nd Annual Convention in Prince Rupert, November 18-20,2003. The membership attending the Convention passed a unanimous priority motion regarding tax issues related to aboriginal commercial fishermen. Taxation also impacts aboriginal people who are working in other resource sectors, such as forestry, mining, ecotourism, etc.
The Motion, itself, stated that the NBBC Convention was to adopt the recommendation to strike up the formation of the Native Brotherhood Taxation Task Group and be guided by a set of principles. An Interim Task Group is now in place and started their meetings.
This is the second year in a row where the NBBC Executive has been mandated to assist First Nation People who are in a tax crisis. The NBBC held its first Taxation Workshop in Fort Rupert. Leif Nordahl, Financial Advisor, and an expert in this field directed the discussions and presentations. The second Taxation Workshop/Conference will be held in January 20th and 21st, 2004 at the Radisson Burnaby Hotel. As soon as we have developed an agenda and details as to content, we will be forwarding this to registered participants.
Recently CCRA has been making a concerted effort to continue the erosion of aboriginal peoples rights and benefits as related to taxation. In particular, at this time there is a campaign of harassment of aboriginal people being carried out by CCRA based upon inconsistent policy. They are going back a number of years ago to attempt to tax the earnings, other income and including the sales of licenses and equipment of aboriginal people. The latest assault has been against our clam diggers. We have been told that they have been also going after pensions, EI payments and Child Tax Credits.
Not one person we have spoken with ever agreed to give up their fishing tax-exempt status. Right now, not only have we lost most of our boats and licenses in the industry, the few which remain may be forced into bankruptcy if we can’t deal with the taxation matters.
We know that when our reserves were established on the coast, they were deliberately made small based, on the government’s statement that our livelihood came from the ocean and its resources. For decades we have harvested those resources both for sustenance and commercial purposes. The current actions of CCRA are contrary to the basis for our reserve allocations, are in conflict with Canada’s fiduciary obligation to us, and contravene Section 35 of the Constitution Act.
Also in our opinion the CCRA has not fulfilled its obligation to consult with First Nations people regarding taxation policy changes. No consultations have occurred with the Federal Government.
The CCRA attack on First Nation commercial fishers is but the ‘tip of the iceberg’. It is an issue that could severely affect all First Nation people throughout Canada who work in the natural resource industry. In our view it will have impact on your treaty negotiations.
We need your advice, involvement and support to put an effective First Nation taxation strategy in place to prevent the continuing erosion of aboriginal peoples rights and benefits as related to taxation, please do not hesitate to contact our office for further information. Furthermore any future litigation concerning the application of the s.87 of the Indian Act should include a thorough review of the contemporary connecting factors and also focus on the size, quality and circumstances surrounding the allotment of reserves to the Coastal First Nations. This history can, in our view, constitute a crucial and compelling connection factor.
We look forward to your support for this important NBBC Tax Initiative and if you are interested in attending our Workshop/Conference, please RSVP by either phoning our office at 604-913-3372 or faxing us at 604-913-3374.
Chris Cook, Jr.
c.c. Edwin Newman, Interim Chair of The Native Brotherhood of BC -Taxation Task Group