'60s Scoop survivor calls for point-of-sale tax exemption for all First Nations shoppers in Quebec

'60s Scoop survivor calls for point-of-sale tax exemption for all First Nations shoppers in Quebec

Brenda Lee Marcoux says Quebec's current policies around First Nations point-of-sale provincial sales tax exemptions are discriminatory, and she wants to see change.

Marcoux, who is Secwépemc from the Ts'kw'aylaxw First Nation in British Columbia and is a Sixties Scoop survivor, has been posting on social media about how her status card is often denied for tax exemption while shopping in Montreal.

An exemption, set out in the Act respecting the Quebec sales tax, exists only for members of Kahnawà:ke for the QST in certain municipalities surrounding the Kanien'kehá:ka (Mohawk) community, including Montreal.

Marcoux has lived in Montreal since she was a baby. She said it was important to speak out after a retailer refused her daughter Danika Whitaker's status card recently.

"It really triggered me because I go through it all the time," said Marcoux.

"I think it's discriminatory and I think it's insulting."

A status card is a piece of federal government identification for someone registered as a status First Nations person, as defined by the Indian Act. It's a valid piece of ID and can be used for non-insured health benefits, to cross the Canadian-American border, and for specific tax exemptions.

Some provinces, such as Ontario, have agreements that First Nations people can use their status card to receive point-of-sale rebates on the provincial sales tax portion of the HST when purchasing goods and services off-reserve.

Marcoux said some retailers in Montreal accept her status card but most don't.

According to Revenu Québec, there is no provision in the province for tax exemption at points-of-sale off-reserve.

"Assets acquired off-reserve are not subject to tax exemption," Claude-Olivier Fagnant, a spokesperson for Revenu Québec, said in an emailed statement.

Fagnant said a special exemption exists for members of Kahnawà:ke. It was made through an interim agreement signed in 1999.

"We only have the voice and to negotiate on behalf of Kahnawà:ke but we never told Quebec that this is exclusive between Kahnawà:ke and Quebec," said Mohawk Council of Kahnawà:ke Ratsénhaienhs (council chief) Mike Delisle Jr.

Delisle wasn't on council when negotiations for the exemption took place but said it was about "striking when the iron is hot," using leverage on other issues during the mid-'90s.

"Everybody believes that tax exemption is an age-old hereditary and a longstanding right of any Indigenous person. I'm not saying they don't believe that, but legally it's based in the Indian Act," he said.

"The council took the position that if we can, solidify it in an agreement with the province that we live in, that we shop in on a daily basis."

He said other First Nations have expressed interest in making similar agreements. To date, no other similar agreement exists in the province.

The office of Ian Lafrenière, Quebec's minister responsible for relations with the First Nations and Inuit, referred CBC News to Revenu Quebec when asked for comment.

Ka’nhehsí:io Deer/CBC
Ka’nhehsí:io Deer/CBC

Marcoux and Whitaker both said they want to see the agreement expanded to apply to all First Nations people who shop in the province.

"The mere fact that they signed a deal with a certain group doesn't give them the right to then discriminate against other groups," she said.

Whitaker said she understands each province makes its own laws and policies, but feels tax-exemption policies should be standard across the country.

"Just make it fair and just make it the same thing for everyone," she said.

"The system that we're living in, it's taken away so much from our culture. It's like an actual tangible thing that is being given as part of the reconciliation."