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Community prepares to protest

First Nation members say the lack of consultations and a disregard of the treaties played a major role for a planned protest of the Harmonized Sales Tax.
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Gail Jones (left) and Eugene Singleton (right) attended the meeting about the rally against HST at the Fort William First Nation youth centre on Saturday. (Jeff Labine, tbnewswatch.com)
First Nation members say the lack of consultations and a disregard of the treaties played a major role for a planned protest of the Harmonized Sales Tax.

About 16 people attended the meeting held at the Fort William First Nation youth centre on Saturday. FWFN officials answered questions before the protest scheduled on Tuesday.

Eugene Singleton, a member of Fort William First Nation, said the lack of consultation concerned him the most.

"I didn’t know too much about HST," Singleton said. "When I did hear about it, it was already something they were going to do."

Traditionally, First Nation members received an exemption from the provincial sales tax through treaty agreements. According to the Canada Revenue Agency, First Nation residents who purchased goods on First Nation land aren’t required to pay HST. However, the tax applies for goods purchased off First Nation communities. 

"I am ready to protest," he said. "They are not honouring the treaties by doing this. It is almost like they are negating it, which gives us plenty to fight back with."

Singleton said he owns a small store and sells candy to the community. He said going into town to purchase the candy would cost more because of HST.

Gail Jones, from Wikwemikong near Manitoulin Island, attended the first HST protest in November and said when she learned the tax affected First Nation communities, she wanted to voice out against it.

"I didn’t like the way the government did it right from the start," Jones said. "We didn’t know about it for months and months and months and then all of a sudden we were warned that HST was coming. There was no chance for us to give feed back."

Jones said she operated a hostel downtown and normally charged $23 a night for a room. Once Ontario implemented HST in July, Jones said she would have to increase her rent to compensate despite trying to keep prices lower.

Peter Collins, chief of Fort William First Nation, said the protest coincides with the planned visit of Michael Ignatieff, leader of the federal Liberal party. Collins said the tax infringes of the rights of the First Nation community.

"Our message is loud and clear," Collins said. "I think we signed a treaty based on no tax being imposed in our community. We’re a tax free nation. The real process is consultation and accommodation. We were not consulted and that is all we’re asking of the federal and provincial governments."

The rally is scheduled at two locations: on the highway near Thunder Bay International Airport and MPP Bill Mauro’s (Thunder Bay – Atikokan) office on Syndicate Avenue. Collins said the protest would be from 2 p.m. to 4 p.m. and all are welcome to participate.
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