Quest for Native Tax Immunity Suffers Blow

Thursday, April 29, 2004 at 15:25



The Supreme Court has decided not to deal with a case that had the potential to provide complete tax freedom to members of Treaty 8 First Nations.


Last year, the Federal Court of Appeal struck down a judgement reached by a lower court judge which granted tax immunity to roughly 30-thousand First Nations citizens.


The Supreme Court announced today that it saw no need to revisit the Benoit case and would not hear an appeal.


This morning’s ruling is not going unnoticed by members of the Denesuline National Council.


Interim leader Allan Adam says the decision is a clear departure from other rulings where oral testimony was accepted at face value.


He says he can¹t help but feel the Supreme Court is stepping back from its obligation to recognize the statements of elders who lived on the land.


He adds Prime Minister Paul Martin’s recent efforts to establish stronger ties with First Nations people is only undermined by decisions like this one.


The chief of one of the Saskatchewan bands affected by this morning’s Supreme Court decision says the fight for complete tax immunity for First Nations people will continue.


Chief Roy Cheecham of the Clearwater River Dene Nation says First Nations groups have some options, but he admits he is disappointed with today’s developments.


Cheecham says First Nations people could take a similar type of case back to the trial level and start over, but admits that could take another 10 years to reach the Supreme Court level.


He also says it might be time to involve the United Nations on this issue.