Myth Busters: Indigenous Edition #1
Updated: Nov 4, 2020
The many myths surrounding the Indigenous People of Canada have grown throughout the years. Some have their beginnings in early forms of legislation, others in outright rumor.
Discrediting such myths and clarifying the issues which have much to do with Indigenous People’s rights and freedoms as they pertain to Canadian policy and programming is easily done with a few simple statements grounded in fact.
Here are the details behind some of the more popular myths around the Indigenous People in Canada.
Myth #1: Almost Every Indigenous Person Lives On-Reserve
According to Statistics Canada, Indigenous People live in every Province and Territory of Canada, and not necessarily on-reserve. Ontario, Manitoba, the Prairies, and British Columbia are home to the largest share of Indigenous population. As of 2011, one in every five identified as a Status Indian resided on-reserve, and 54 percent of First Nation People lived in an urban centre. Little known fact but Canada has Reserves, the USA has Reservations.
Myth #2: Indigenous People are Protected by Treaties, Guaranteeing Income and Rights
Issues revolving around treaties have been in and out of the Canadian court system for years, some of which pertain to the environment, wildlife, governance, and land ownership. Likewise, financial benefit, taxation, and even spiritual and cultural beliefs have been subject to treaty provisions. However, Indigenous People have not had the benefit of either guaranteed rights or income as a result of treaties negotiated with Canada. Of the many historical treaties signed within Canada from the 1870s to the 1920s, many have resulted in comprehensive land claims, court decisions, and settlements, which have barely touched on the initial livelihoods and healthy lifestyles Indigenous People would have enjoyed prior to such negotiations. And, although land claim settlement monies are often paid to Indigenous communities in the form of a trust, very few communities partake in a per capita distribution (many require a majority vote from Band membership for such,) and allow the funds to remain in the trust for the long-term benefit of the community.
Myth #3: Indigenous People Don’t Pay Taxes
There are a few tax exemptions for Status Indians under the Indian Act (Section 87) however, for the most part, Indigenous People are taxed like every other individual. And, those individuals who are identified as Métis or Inuit are not exempt from taxation. Legislation does identify that the personal property of an Indigenous person or a First Nation Band, located on-reserve, is exempt from tax. Likewise, employment income which is generated on-reserve can be tax-exempt. Each Canadian province has established policies with regard to Indigenous People and tax exemption, according to their jurisdiction.
Myth #4: Indigenous People Get Free Post-Secondary Education
Some funding is provided to Indigenous and Inuit communities for the purpose of supporting students in post-secondary education. Programs have been established to contribute toward the cost of a post-secondary education for an Indigenous person, however, there are no such supports for those who self-identify as Métis or non-status Indian. Likewise, not everyone who is eligible to receive such supports through their First Nation actually receives it. With increased demand on limited funds, some First Nation communities have taken it upon themselves to limit funding support for those students who are pursuing their first certificate in post-secondary education. Still further limit supports to those who are residing on-reserve while in the pursuit of such education.
Myth #5: The Only Indigenous Business is in the Resource Sector
Including mining, forestry, agriculture, and oil and gas, only 13 percent of all Indigenous-owned small-to-medium-sized enterprises (SMEs,) had a direct link to the resource sector. At present, the larger share of Indigenous enterprises is within the service sector, such as business development and management, and construction.
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