January 1st is just around the corner and the taxman cometh. The Department of Revenue is about to be the new tool of Canada’s assimilation policies.

Hold on, you say. This isn’t the old days. Our rights are protected and Canada is no longer the bogeyman out to get us. I think differently.

Let us look at the past. Almost a hundred years or so. In Ontario, some natives began competing with non-native farmers. The farmers complained in their fear to Ottawa. We’ll just have to put a stop to that, says Ottawa. Next thing you know the Department of Indian Affairs gets to say who can buy native food produce and for how much. Natives are slapped with restrictions on which farming tools they are allowed to use. They are allowed no modern tools. Only the white people could use those. And Indian-grown food rots because they can’t sell it. In fact, Natives even had to get permission to buy twine or string.

Now what does this have to do with the price of apples in Demark? Even though these seem like two different things, they are not.

This January 1995, one of the new rules on taxation is that if a Native company sells to any non-natives, it is taxed. Even if a large percentage of its customers is Native. The point is that through this the government controls who we can sell to. They also end up controlling who we work for and how we work. We are not allowed to enter their markets unless we become like them (by paying tax). They are basically taking native companies and turning them into non-native companies against their will. This smacks of another attempt at disenfranchisement and just when we thought that era was over.

Instead of being happy that we are trying to re-position ourselves in the economy so we won’t have to depend on government handouts; instead of realizing the hurdles we have had to overcome to get where we are today, they’re throwing more obstacles in our path. God forbid that we ever stand on some sort of equal footing.

One of the reasons for this newest attempt to assimilate us is the constant complaining about the benefits that we as natives susposedly receive by being tax-exempt. Politicians from the reform party ( I refuse to capitalize them) cried about this and have fear-mongered long enough.

Once again I say it; if those benefits are of such an advantage, then why are Native peoples in Canada the poorest peoples of all? Why are non-Natives and their governments so afraid that someday Natives will join them on a level playing field, that they’ll use any method to keep us in our place? Tax-exempt status is one of the only advantages we had, while most everything else is stacked against us. We want to develop our economy, but we’d like todo so while keeping our cultural integrity intact.

I don’t know why the definition of Native keeps getting narrower. All I know is that the velvet glove has slipped off the iron fist yet again. Our rights as First Nations peoples are being eroded once more and there sometimes seems little we can do about it. The courts are not our courts and tend to reflect another culture than ours. Our voices are small in Ottawa for all the rhetoric about equal rights. Canada prides itself on its human rights record, but that record is being tarnished once again and business goes on as usual. The Native is left behind in the dust to attempt to find some new way to ensure a viable economic future.

Just when it looked like we were getting somewhere; just when I thought Canada’s record with Native people could not get any blacker, I was wrong. It is a black hole where Native peoples and consideration for their rights disappear from the light of day forever. Be proud, Canada, be strong in your rights, because while you continue to steal what you can, there will come a time in the future. The Native voice that has been asleep is now awakening.