Transition period for HST kicks in for First Nation consumers

Create: 12/01/2015 - 19:41

While some First Nations people are planning to hold onto their sales receipts, others are not happy with having to pay the provincial portion of the HST tax.
“It’s too much,” said Bearskin Lake’s Tina Peters during her July 4 shopping trip in Thunder Bay. “I almost brought some little stuff and with the HST it almost came up to a $1,000.”
Peters is planning to hold on to her sales receipts until the HST rules are changed.
“Us Natives, we don’t feel like it is fair,” Peters said.
Terry Peters said the HST is affecting his purchasing power.
“I’m on welfare and by the time you buy something the money is gone because you’re paying HST,” Terry Peters said. “At the end, I guess, you go in the hole. You’ll probably have to walk back.”
Long Lake 58’s Faye Shebagabow is not happy with having to pay the HST and having to keep her sales receipts to get her money back.
“I don’t think it is fair and I don’t think it is right,” Shebagabow said during her July 4 shopping trip in Thunder Bay, explaining she has been keeping all of her sales receipts from her shopping trip over the July 3-4 weekend. “I made a purchase of $1,600 and I had to pay $198 (HST) for my merchandise.”
Shebagabow is planning to set up a filing system to keep track of all her sales receipts.
“After today, I won’t be shopping that much because of it,” Shebagabow said. “Every bit adds up. I am keeping the smallest amount of HST I paid to get it back because that is not fair at all.”
Fort William First Nation’s Darlene Maki said saving sales receipts will be a hassle for her.
“I don’t like it,” Maki said. “I don’t see myself saving receipts and handing them in. I just don’t feel it is right.”
Bearskin Lake’s Jacob Mekanak encouraged others to save their sales receipts for a refund.
“People have to start putting their receipts away,” Mekanak said during his July 4 shopping trip in Thunder Bay.
Refund applications will be made available after Aug. 1 at band council offices, online at the Ministry of Revenue website at or by calling 1-866-668-8297.
Refund applications, which can only be submitted between Sept. 1 and Nov. this year, must contain the original sales receipts and a photocopy of both sides of the Status Indian Card, or in the case of Indian bands and councils, a letter from the band or council certifying the consumption of qualifying off-reserve supplies for band activities.
“Our relationship with vendors in Treaty 3 territory needs to be one of respect for our inherent and treaty rights,” said Naotkamegwanning Chief Warren White in a June 18 press release. “The province of Ontario needs to be clear what is expected of vendors during the two-month period where the point of sale exemption should be in place but for the inability of the Canadian government to administer it.”
Research completed by Fred Lazar, an associate professor of economics at York University’s Schulich School of Business, found the loss of the provincial sales tax exemption would have cost White’s community more than $667,000.
“The citizens of Grand Council Treaty 3 that reside in Ontario should have confidence that every effort was taken to maintain this point of sale exemption,” said Grand Council Treaty 3 Ogichidaakwe Diane Kelly.
“We were extremely fortunate to find a path towards protecting the property of our citizens which is a treaty right in Treaty 3. The point of sale exemption is key First Nations policy in Ontario and honours the commitment of the Crown to protect the interests of Treaty 3 communities as long as the sun shines and the grass grows, that is to say forever.”
Kelly said Grand Council Treaty 3 will continue to advocate for a full implementation of Treaty 3 and a better understanding of the treaty by the Crown governments.
“While we achieved maintaining the status quo, we need to serve notice to both Crown governments they ignore our rights and interest to the peril of the economy of northwestern Ontario,” Kelly said.
“Couchiching First Nation proved that direct action worked, the First Nations in Ontario proved that direct action can move mountains in the HST battle and it is a shame the tool of last resort must be resorted to so much with the present governments of Ontario and Canada. Just and lasting reconciliation policy needs to have the fuller attention of these Crown representatives.”
First Nations people will have to continue paying the HST until Sept. 1, when the immediate point-of-sale tax exemption agreed to by the federal and provincial governments and First Nations groups can be implemented.
“We were hoping for a moratorium for First Nations regarding the HST,” said Nishnawbe Aski Nation Grand Chief Stan Beardy.
“However we understand that because this deal was reached last-minute, there is a transition period for vendors to prepare themselves for it.”
Beardy said the agreement was made after last-minute tripartite talks were held the week before.
“The news is a welcomed relief for NAN communities, as they will not be forced to pay even more for essential goods and services that are already much higher than the rest of Ontario,” Beardy said.
“For NAN, the point of sale exemption is considered a treaty right and even though it is not recognized as such under the Comprehensive Integrated Tax Coordination Agreement between Ontario and Canada, we are happy that the historical practice of the point-of-sale exemption will be maintained.”