A Wolastoqew man has created a delivery company to help people in his community take advantage of their treaty tax exemption.
Thomas Nash and his partner, Hayley Goodwin, noticed local First Nations people were being denied tax exemptions at point of sale. Nash thinks taxing Indigenous people on their unceded territory is wrong and the process to purchase items tax-free is cumbersome.
"I'm just trying to make this more convenient for everyone," said Nash, 32.
Nash, who is from Sitansisk, also known as St. Mary's First Nation, near Fredericton, N.B., started Wabanaki Deliveries to help shoppers streamline the process.
He says currently the process to receive a tax exemption under Section 87 of the Indian Act requires goods be delivered to an on-reserve address and that it be delivered by a registered delivery company.
Typically, people in Nash's community must get a delivery slip from their band office, present the slip and their Treaty Status Card to the business and then hope they honour it. If the business accepts it, the goods are then delivered to their home on-reserve.
How does it work?
By paying $10 for a delivery slip, Nash makes customers "employees" of Wabanaki Deliveries. That allows them to deliver their own purchases to their home and cuts the wait time out of having another company do it.
Nash says he has registered his business with the Canada Revenue Agency, so all they need is for businesses to honour the company slip. Nash says a couple of stores in the area already have.
New Brunswick's harmonized sales tax (HST) is 15 per cent. Nash says it may not seem like much, but with the rising costs of living every dollar counts — and for him, it's more about asserting his rights.
"We were born with inherent rights and the treaties just affirm them," said Nash.
Keyaira Gruben, a band councillor for Kingsclear First Nation near Fredericton, was recently denied a tax exemption at a local big box store.
She feels the current laws omit Indigenous people that live off-reserve and would like to see businesses honour the exemptions in the spirit of reconciliation and true allyship.
"These policies that companies have to make us deliver on reserve are outdated, toxic and colonial," she said.
Gruben said people might not understand Indigenous communities have been forced to live in poverty. She feels families are now starting to make decent wages but any time they can save money, it goes a long way.
"A lot of our people are truly in the struggle, very vulnerable and did not inherit any generational wealth and there's a lot of problems that come from that."
Gruben says any money she saves will go directly to her daughter.
The provincial government says those seeking tax exemptions from HST should discuss it with the federal government.