News  Indian Status Cards rejected by major retailers

Quebec lacks complaint procedure

Indian Status Cards have recently been refused by major Montreal stores, according to several sources. The cards, issued by Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development Canada under the Indian Act, provide federal tax exemptions to Status Indians. While the majority of major department stores recognize the cards, Walmart and Zellers reportedly only offer tax exemptions to Aboriginal people from Kahnawake, and recent reports indicate instances of stores in downtown Montreal also refusing the Status Cards.

Céline, a Saint-Constant Walmart employee who declined to provide her last name, confirmed that the store previously only accepted cards from Kahnawake, but also cited a policy change in the past year to include all Status Indians, of which there are over 70,000 in Quebec.

Ken Williams, who lives on the Ontario Moose Deer Point Reserve, claims otherwise, reporting that his card was refused only a few weeks ago, on October 24. According to Williams, Walmart’s receipts intended for store records state that only Kahnawake cards are to be accepted. Williams was unable to obtain a copy of the receipt.

There is no consistent complaint procedure in Quebec for those whose Status Cards are refused, though such avenues exist in other provinces. The Assembly of First Nations is officially responsible as a resource for support, but has failed to respond to Williams’ complaints.

Larger Quebec bands, including the Cree, Algonquin, and Mohawk, choose to represent themselves independently of band associations. The lack of affiliation networks between Quebec bands means that negotiations are often done on a smaller scale, such as in Kahnawake’s recent agreement with the provincial government granting them an exemption from the Quebec Sales Tax (QST).

According to Williams, the refusal of Status Cards is evidence of a “lack of understanding of what the Indian Act is all about.”

In a 1986 conference of Native lawyers, the Indian Act was described as a recognition that “the government understands that they took our land without paying.”

Williams also said that a “lack of understanding” on the part of employees regarding the Indian Act and its requirements might explain the lack of consistency in the application of tax exemptions under the Act.