Madahbee says treaty rights-based agenda in Canada starts with tax exemption

Nipissing First Nation, Canada (NFN) September 2010

Grand Council Chief Patrick Madahbee chose the first day that Ontario retailers are to resume recognition of the First Nation point-of-sale tax exemption on Sept. 1, to announce that the Anishinabek Nation political agenda will be taking on a more rights-based focus.

“The province-wide campaign that the Anishinabek led against the Harmonized Sales Tax was ultimately successful,” said Madahbee, “but in the process we learned how little other governments, the media, and the general public know about aboriginal and treaty rights.

“Even after the province has sent out notices informing businesses that they must honour the rights of our citizens – on and off-reserve – to tax exemption, we are hearing stories of companies trying to gouge First Nations customers.  These retailers are now breaking their own government’s laws, as well as ignoring First Nation rights.”

The Grand Council Chief called on citizens of the 40 member Anishinabek Nation communities to provide the nearest riding office of a member of the Ontario legislature with the name of any business refusing to respect their point-of-sale exemption to the 8-per-cent provincial sales tax.

“That was part of the deal we negotiated with Ontario; they accepted responsibility for ensuring that all businesses in the province complied with their tax regime. We showed Ontario that we were prepared to take to the streets to fight for our rights.”

Madahbee said the Union of Ontario Indians will re-focus its political advocacy for the Anishinabek on the rights-based aspects of such ongoing issues as citizenship, matrimonial real property and funding for post-secondary education.

“We need to avoid getting into debates about existing government policies in areas like health, education and resource revenue-sharing and start concentrating on the rights that we have had as distinct nations from time immemorial. Canada and Ontario did not give us these rights in the treaties.

“We have kept our share of the bargain by defending the Crown in Canada for three centuries; now we expect them to start keeping theirs.”