Article by John Paul Tasker, CBC News
A leading voice on First Nations finances wants the federal government to surrender taxation powers over cannabis to band councils, arguing Indigenous peoples should get a cut of the billions of dollars in revenue expected from legalization.
Manny Jules, chief commissioner of the First Nations Tax Commission, is urging senators to amend Bill C-45, the government’s pot bill, to hand taxing authority to First Nations governments so they can impose their own levy on cannabis manufactured and sold on reserves.
The federal Liberal government reached a deal with the provinces to divide up the excise duty collected on the sale of cannabis — a 75-25 split in favour of the provinces, owing to the costs they will incur with legal pot.
First Nations say their governments also will face new challenges from legal cannabis, but they stand to gain nothing from Ottawa’s plan.
Under Jules’ proposal, Ottawa and the provinces would cede ground to First Nations to collect taxes and provide some much-needed revenue to their cash-strapped communities.
The funds could be used to develop cannabis-related laws and regulations on reserve, fund campaigns to educate young people about the dangers of the drug or bolster First Nations police forces, Jules said.
Jules said that despite the prime minister’s talk of a new nation-to-nation approach with Indigenous peoples, very little consultation on revenue-sharing happened before the legislation was rolled out, leaving a legal “dog’s breakfast” on reserves across the country.
“I think that people are very disappointed that we weren’t considered early on,” said Jules, the former chief of a band near Kamloops, B.C. “The challenges [First Nations] face are even larger than those of the provincial governments.”