Cree workers at the Troilus Mine must have been smiling just before Christmas. That was when Revenue Canada decided to no longer charge them income tax and return all their back taxes.
The tax department backed away from taxing Crees at Troilus after the Grand Council of the Crees took Canada to court in a challenge to Ottawa’s new income tax guidelines for Natives.
Those guidelines resulted in many Crees and other Natives across Canada paying income tax for the first time if they worked off-reserve.
The Grand Council decided the Trolius Mine workers would be a good test case for the new guidelines.
The workers slept over at the mine during the week, but returned home for the weekend, and the workers’ families stayed on-reserve all the time.
A couple of months after the legal challenge was issued, the Grand Council received a letter from government lawyers saying that Revenue Canada was conceding the fight and wouldn’t go to court.
The Grand Council is still waiting for an official explanation for this unexpected turnaround.
Cree lawyer John Hurley said the basis of the Cree argument in layman’s terms is that your residence is not necessarily where you lay your head.
For example, a hotel room doesn’t count as a residence. In the same way, the Troilus camps can’t be counted as residences of Cree workers who continued to live in Mistissini.
Bill Namagoose, of the Grand Council, said he is disappointed the feds didn’t go to court.
“Revenue Canada backed down― unfortunately, because that court ruling could have had national ramifications.
They (Revenue Canada) didn’t want the infamous William’s guidelines busted down. We would’ve preferred a court judgment because this would have affected other Crees in Cree Construction, Chee-Bee, etc.,” Namagoose told The Nation.
He explained that it’s still a case-by-case issue as it stands.