Iqaluit mayor won't raise motion to tax churches, says similar motion already passed

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IQALUIT, Nunavut — The mayor of Iqaluit says he will no longer bring forward a motion to make the city's churches pay taxes on land use.

Kenny Bell proposed the motion following the discovery of what are believed to be hundreds of unmarked graves at residential schools in Canada and was set to bring it to city council Tuesday night.

But Bell says in a statement that he made a similar motion back in February to look at how non-profits in the city, including churches, are exempt from paying property taxes.

Bell says that motion, which passed unanimously, recommends that a non-profit property tax exemption be developed on a sliding scale.

Iqaluit city councillor Sheila Flaherty says in another statement that she spoke with church leaders and other community members who were upset by Bell's proposed motion.

Flaherty, an Inuk, says places of worship would be negatively affected by taxation and would limit the services they offer.

"A number of our community members seek assistance and support to help heal from traumas. This is especially important as there is no alcohol and drug treatment facility or healing centres," she wrote in her statement. "One church is founded by an Inuk residential school survivor and his Inuk wife."

Bell, however, says churches should contribute to the city's tax base.

"Something I believe in regardless of the terrible situation, churches shouldn't have tax exemption and really any group that says they provide a community good shouldn't have a problem with paying their fair share of taxes like the rest of us," the mayor wrote.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published July 13, 2021.

The Canadian Press

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