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HALIFAX—As Wab Kinew said in his 2012 Soapbox video — “Canada, if this thing is going to work, there are (some) things you’re going to have to stop saying about my people.”

Eight years later, and Canada is still saying and believing the same old myths. While there are great differences between Indigenous peoples and their traditions across Canada, what brings us together is our resilience and determination to fight for recognition and respect, says guest editor Rebecca Thomas. We tend to find ourselves at this imaginary junction where we are both flush with cash from all our free government money and also dirty, poor and broke — presumably from the mishandling of our federal funds.

I’m here to set the record straight on some of the top myths about Indigenous people in Canada.

Myth: Indigenous people don’t pay taxes.

Fact : We pay a lot of taxes. Only federally recognized Status Indians who live and/or work on reserve don’t pay income tax. With over half of Status Indians living off reserve, that number dwindles even more. When you add sky-high unemployment rates to the mix, the number of Indigenous people who aren’t paying taxes is relatively low. In 2016, the Atlantic Policy Congress of First Nations Chiefs released an economic impact study that reported Indigenous households remitted a total $184.5 million in tax revenue. To once again borrow from Wab, “I pay income tax, sales tax, and I even once paid a land transfer tax … ironic.”

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Myth: Indigenous people get free schooling.

Fact : Universities and colleges are not lining up to waive tuition for Indigenous students. Post-secondary funding comes out of a national funding strategy called Aboriginal Skills and Employment Training Strategy, which gives bands a certain amount of money, under very strict parameters, to fund a select few students who have to be Status Indians under the Indian Act. However, with an increase in Indigenous high school graduation rates, the pieces of that funding pie are getting smaller and smaller. Bands are having to set aside portions of their own budgets to fund their community members at the expense of other things. Many communities are left with the choice to either fund their kids in hopes of a brighter future, or address serious financial costs and problems that are affecting the community in the immediate future. What decision would you make?

Myth: The Drunken Indian

Fact : Fewer Indigenous people consume alcohol on a relative scale than the rest of the Canadian population. We drink less than the rest of the country. Period.

Myth: Indigenous people get free housing

Fact : No one is handing out free houses on reserves. There is market-based housing, where households pay the full cost associated with purchasing or renting; and non-profit social housing, where the cost is covered by a combination of government funding and private-sector loans — a situation not unique to Indigenous Peoples.

Myth: Indigenous People can hunt and fish whenever and wherever we want.

Fact : Though Indigenous Peoples’ rights to hunt and fish are protected in the constitution of Canada, there is no guarantee that we will be able to do so. There are many stipulations that come with those protected acts, such as Canada’s right to ban hunting and fishing of certain species and the 1999 Supreme Court decision that ambiguously stated that Indigenous people can fish up to a “moderate living” with no definition as to what that actually means. Current “best” practices often lead to Indigenous people being charged with harvesting out of season, and then […]

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