A Calgary-based taxpayer organization is saying that a court decision affecting thousands of First Nations people in Alberta will create racial friction and administrative chaos.

The Federal Court of Canada ruled March 7 that First Nations living under Treaty 8 do not have to pay any tax. According to the ruling, treaty negotiations held over 100 years ago led the aboriginals to believe they would never be taxed. The decision includes those living off-reserve and could result in backpay ments of tens of thousands of dollars to some individuals.

John Carpay, Alberta director for the Canadian Taxpayers Federation, argued against special treatment for First Nations. “If your next door neighbour doesn’t have to pay tax because of his racial ancestry, that’s appalling,” said Carpay. “It’s repulsive. It’s a step backwards.”

Carpay says it will only widen the existing racial divide and cause confusion within the tax collection system. “Welcome to taxpayer apartheid,” Carpay said. “This should be a wakeup call for Canadians to sit up and take notice of aboriginal policy and court decisions on aboriginal policy.”

But James Badger, an adviser to the grand chiefs, said the decision was fair and long-deserved. “The only ones I suggest are creating this racial divide are the Canadian Taxpayers Federation,” Badger said. “They have tried from the start to make this a race-based case, which it is not.”

Badger says he has been saving receipts from restaurants and stores in order to be reimbursed for the GS.T, sales and income taxes he’s been paying. But both Badger and Carpay believe the case is not over and expect the decision will be appealed.