Iqaluit mayor wants city's churches to be taxed

·3 min read
Iqaluit mayor wants city's churches to be taxed

Iqaluit Mayor Kenny Bell wants to start taxing churches in Nunavut's capital, as the country mourns the discovery of unmarked graves at former residential schools.

Bell announced the idea in a post to Twitter after about 751 unmarked graves were discovered near the site of a former residential school in Saskatchewan earlier this week.

"My heart breaks with them … I wanted to make sure that we showed solidarity with Inuit, Indigenous and Métis people across our country that are suffering from hearing this news," Bell said.

"We cannot allow the churches … who refuse to apologize and acknowledge their involvement in all of these deaths … to have free reign in our country anymore."

Right now, the land churches sit on in Iqaluit are exempt from taxes. Bell said the council will have to vote on his motion to get the process going at the next meeting, which is July 13.

Bell said he doesn't have a set idea on what the tax could look like, but said at least one of the churches in Iqaluit has land with a value of about $1 million.

He also isn't sure how the council will vote as many council members are religious. However, he added that at the start of their term, the council unanimously voted to remove the prayer from the council agenda, and replace it with a moment of silence.

"I just don't know how people will vote," he said. "The catholic church needs to apologize. And I think this is the only way we can make them."

Bell said if the motion passes, he'd think about using the money for affordable housing but said that ultimately it is the council members' decision.

"As non-Indigenous members of Canada, we need to stand with Indigenous people, we have to do it," Bell said, adding he thinks all politicians need to make similar moves to reconcile with Indigenous communities.

"The stronger we make Indigenous people … the more we bring them up front, the stronger our country is going to be."

Support is available for anyone affected by the effects of residential schools, and those who are triggered by the latest reports.

The Indian Residential School Survivors Society (IRSSS) can be contacted toll-free at 1-800-721-0066.

A national Indian Residential School Crisis Line has been set up to provide support for former students and those affected. People can access emotional and crisis referral services by calling the 24-hour national crisis line: 1-866-925-4419.

The NWT Help Line offers free support to residents of the Northwest Territories, 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. It is 100% free and confidential. The NWT Help Line also has an option for follow-up calls. Residents can call the help line at 1-800-661-0844.

In Nunavut, the Kamatsiaqtut Help Line is open 24 hours a day at 1-800-265-3333. People are invited to call for any reason.

In Yukon, mental health services are available to those in both Whitehorse and in rural Yukon communities through Mental Wellness and Substance Use Services. Yukoners can schedule Rapid Access Counselling supports in Whitehorse and all MWSU community hubs by calling 1-867-456-3838.