The first time I had heard that Northern Stores would put into effect a new federal government policy requiring band numbers to make tax-free purchases, it didn’t seem like too much of a big deal. Then I saw a cashier ask a small child of only five or six years for his band number.
The child appeared unable to respond and was aided by a community member, who offered using her band number. I thought this was inappropriate behavior by Northern Stores. Was this child expected to respond with the same level of understanding as a mature adult? Surely before this policy was put into place, all aspects of the effects of this policy were looked at, and how it would affect all customers, young and old.
We brought this matter up with our Chief and a council member and with their support we took a letter to Northern Stores demanding that the tax machines be thrown out of our community. The policy in itself was oppressive and that because of this new tax policy in our community, our children were being denied the freedom to be who they are. They were being denied their identity. After taking the letter to the Northern Store manager, he stated that it was mandatory for them that they ask for band numbers because of the federal government’s tax policy. Apparently Northern Stores got fined close to $200,000 because they did not implement this policy sooner.
He ended by saying that he would send our letter to the ‘ head office.
Two months have passed since we’ve delivered our letter. After asking around at the band office as to where this issue was at, the Chief directed us to the local tax officer. We received a similar response from the tax officer as the Northern Stores manager. The tax officer however did mention that Northern Stores asked for a beneficiary list, but to no avail, since the beneficiary list was confidential information. He also mentioned that allowing someone else to use your band number is illegal. So if you’re standing behind a child at Northern and he or she needs a band number, remember that it’s against the law to allow them to use yours.
We felt we had just cause to question the credibility of Northern Stores and whether their quality of service is free of bias toward all their customers, foremost our children. Our children are Status-Indians. it is their inherent right as our children that they too are tax-free and nobody should be allowed to come into our communities and deny them their right.
We are fair people, we allow visitors to come into our communities and set up their businesses. But we âre also a people with pride and we cannot simply sit back and allow outsiders to oppress our children.
I will continue to follow this matter and inform the communities of any changes.