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Lack of Respect for Treaty Rights has Resulted in Court Battle

SASKATCHEWAN INDIAN      SPRING 2000      v30 n02 p12  
The Federation of Saskatchewan Indian Nations will immediately file a Statement of Claim challenging the provincial government's jurisdiction to implement its new tax policy charging First Nations people PST for off reserve purchases, Chief Perry Bellegarde announced March 29, 2000, one day after the provincial government released its budget.

The provincial government announced the new PST First Nation tax policy today in its fiscal 2000/2001 Budget. The new PST First Nation tax policy will take effect April 1, 2000.

"This provincial government has now demonstrated through the implementation of this new tax policy that it has no respect for First Nations people or our Treaty Rights. Under our Treaties, First Nations people agreed to share the land in exchange for certain Treaty Rights, which includes immunity to any taxation. Not only have we not received our fair share of the wealth from the resources taken from our lands, this coalition government clearly has no respect for our Treaties or the contributions First Nation; people have made to this province over the last one hundred years," Chief Bellegarde said.

The Federation accuses the provincial government of caving in to the recommendations from the Vicq Report on taxation and the pressure lobby by the Canadian Taxpayers Federation with no regard or respect for First Nation Treaty Rights.

"This new PST tax policy is arbitrary and has been implemented with no direct consultation with First Nations and we are prepared legally and intend to fully defend our Treaty Right to tax immunity," Chief Bellegarde said.

The Federation says that First Nation leaders are also challenging the government's position with respect to implementing the new PST tax policy as a matter of tax fairness. Chief Bellegarde says that the public is lead to believe that First Nation people do not pay any taxes, when the opposite is true. 50 per cent of the province's First Nation population live in urban centres, which means most of those First Nations people pay income, GST, property, utility, insurance and all other forms of taxes the same as the rest of society.

"Not only is this new PST tax policy an affront to our Treaty Rights as First Nations people, it is a policy that taxes the most economically disadvantaged group of people in our society. This will clearly have a negative and lasting effect on the relationship between First Nations and this provincial government," Chief Bellegarde concluded.

The FSIN filed its Statement of Claim challenging the implementation of the PST to off-reserve purchases with the Court of Queen's Bench in Saskatoon on April 1, 2000.