The Union of B.C. Indian Chiefs will ask Finance Minister Colin Hansen to exempt First Nations from the HST.
Fearing the impact of additional taxation on band members already stretched to the limit, the Union of B.C. Indian Chiefs (UBCIC) endorsed the Fight HST campaign Tuesday.
The UBCIC issued a lengthy resolution detailing its opposition, although a local member of the group’s HST committee acknowledged the tax is a fait accompli.
“For the most part, some of our people are amongst the poorest in the province and will have some trouble paying it,” said Chief Keith Matthew of the Simpcw (North Thompson) First Nation.
Chiefs from across the province met last week to discuss the issue and draft the resolution. The meeting included Bill Vander Zalm and Chris Delaney, who have spearheaded the Fight HST campaign.
That was prior to confirmation of a set of meetings with Hansen on the issue before the controversial tax takes effect July 1, Matthew said.
“At this point, I don’t know if it’s moot or not,” he said, noting that HST legislation is already in place.
The chiefs hope to persuade Hansen to grant tax-exempt status to First Nations.
“I think that’s one opportunity to do that. The other part is understanding the HST from (the chiefs’) perspective and being able to relay that to our constituents instead of dealing with half-truths and rumours.”
Matthew appeared before a Commons HST committee in December to argue for a non-derogation clause that would exempt First Nations people. While that may be unlikely at this late date, Matthew welcomed the dialogue.
“I’m hoping something good will come from that discussion, but the legislation is done at the provincial and federal levels. I know it’s tough to make headway at this point, but it’s important to keep the lines of communication open.”
The Fight HST campaign is continuing its citizen’s initiative petition, even though it has obtained the required signatures from 10 per cent of B.C. voters in all 85 ridings. The signatures will be verified by Elections B.C. after July 5.
UBCIC supports the effort to have the tax repealed as well as backing the idea of a possible legal challenge on the basis that the HST contravenes the Constitution Act of 1867 and the Excise Tax Act.