Gisele Rickard and Jessie James drove an hour and a half with the dealership salesperson to a reserve to get a tax exemption on their truck. (Submitted by Gisele Rickard and Jessie James) Jasmine Kabatay is one of two recipients of the 2018 CJF-CBC Indigenous Journalism Fellowships, established to encourage Indigenous voices and better understanding of Indigenous issues in Canada’s major media and community outlets.
When Gisele Rickard and Jessie James went to buy a new truck in Orangeville, Ont., they met with the dealership, went through all the paperwork and everything was going great — until they pulled out a status card for the salesperson.
"The first thing that came out of his mouth was ‘Oh, this is going to cause a lot of problems,’" said James.
Status cards are a form of government-issued identification that prove a person is registered as a status Indian under the Indian Act. They provide access to services including health benefits and certain tax exemptions.
But even though a status card is a form of government-issued ID, many report having issues using it as identification or to claim their tax exemptions.
In Ontario, status Indians are eligible for an exemption from the provincial sales tax at the point of purchase. But for an exemption from GST, items have to be delivered to a reserve.
For Rickard and James, their truck purchase turned into a two-day process. They and the salesperson had to drive to the closest reserve, an hour and a half away near Orillia, to take a picture with the sign and the truck to earn their tax exemption.
"I said "Why do I need this to be on a reserve? I have proof. We have a status card; we don’t need to do that," but they said they were following the rules," said Rickard.
James said he has bought other vehicles before and used his status card and never had to go through that process, with one salesperson in Hamilton encouraging him to use his card.
"I pulled out all my ID and somehow my status card fell out on the counter and she says ‘hey slow down there, give me your status card I’m going to save you some money,’ And I said OK. I pulled it out and she just wrote down the number and that was it."
James said in Orangeville the dealership owner came out to apologize for the extra steps they went through.
"He said his hands were tied and he was sorry but he was abiding by the federal government rules," said James. Strange looks
Shady Hafez in Quebec, who is half-Anishinaabe and half-Syrian, said despite having the new, secure version of the card he constantly has to explain himself to people while using his card because he looks Syrian.
"If it’s not a verbal comment, I get a really strange look," said Hafez.
"If I do get a verbal comment … people will be like ‘how does someone like you get this card?’" Shady Hafez says he has trouble using his secure status card while crossing the border. (Submitted by Shady Hafez) He gets questioned the most when he uses his card to cross the border.
"I was travelling with my [regalia], and they had pulled us over and they were looking through the car and I had all my feathers and stuff, and he was like ‘Do you have a status card to carry all this?’"I said ‘Yeah totally,’ so I pulled it out and he examined it and he looked at my girlfriend who was visibly Native, and he was like ‘I know in some communities you can marry in and get one of […]
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