Sunday, February 14, 2021

White people don't pay taxes, get land and her resources for free

As part of the NS 161 course, we have been assigned chapters from âpihtawikosisân (Chelsea Vowel)'s book INDIGENOUS WRITES: A Guide to First Nations, Métis & Inuit Issues in Canada

Last week's lecture included an interview that Tasha Hubbard (one of our professors) did of Chelsea Vowel, where they discussed how the book came out of some of the work she was doing on her blog creating "Indigenous Issues" Primers., as well as on her twitter and other social media.

They discussed how, if she was going to do this all over again, she would have avoided the use of the term "Indigenous Issues" as they are really Canadian issues. These primers discuss things all Canadians are involved in, and it is not narrowly about some subset of the population on this land.

I've heard it said in another way, which is that there never was an "Indian problem", only a "settler-colonial problem".

Repeating my confession

I haven't read every single stereotype and false notion discussed in the book yet, but in the past I've believed pretty much everything I've read debunked so far.  I bought the marketing (AKA: propaganda) of Canada, from my birth in 1968 (on land covered by Robinson Huron Treaty) up until embarrassingly recent times.

I really was a good little white soldier, loyal to the empire and never thought to question the Imperial cause (Um...  Wait... isn't that the definition of a Stormtrooper from Star Wars? I'll eventually get caught up on my studies and be able to listen to MÉTIS IN SPACE!).


It is actually worse than that.

When I came across ideas which I now recognize as common to many Indigenous Nations since time immemorial, I assumed the idea was new and came from the white guy (usually male, but not always) that I heard it from.

In the early 1990's I was actively volunteering for the Peace and Environment Resource Center. In this environment talking about the environment, I met Mike Nickerson and learned about his Sustainability project / 7th Generation Initiative.

The idea strongly resonated with me -- I had a feeling about wanting to learn from many generations and use that to plan for at least 7 generations into the future.  I never thought of land or her resources as something we inherit from our parents, but that we borrow from the future.

However... As much as I've believed this, I also believed all of what Canada told me about Indigenous peoples.  It never occurred to me that not only was this not a European (or descendants) idea, but that it has been (for instance) an ancient Haudenosaunee philosophy.

Chapter 13, also in a blog article, discuses "The myth of progress".  This includes the myth of Canada progressing beyond defective settler-colonialism ideas, as well as the myths of the superiority of European contributions.

I fully believed the "indigenous savages" myth, so it never occurred to me that these "new" ideas I was hearing from White people were only new to White people. That in fact some of these were ancient ideas which the less civilized Europeans tried to eradicate as part of their settler-colonialism project.


Am I obsessed about "Indigenous" studies?

My wife thinks I'm obsessed with my Indigenous studies: I'm taking two university courses, reading many books. listening to several podcasts and radio shows, and get my news and listening to concerts and watching movies from APTN Lumi. I talk way to much, and am way too excited, about what I'm learning (a common non-neurotypical trait). Sometimes she just wants to take a rest from everything.

While the courses I'm taking are from the Faculty of Native Studies, I think of this as Canadian Studies. While I am also learning about the peoples of the land I was born and live on, I am primarily learning about the foreign European derived systems that we have been indoctrinated to believe legitimately governs over this land. I have been learning what this foreign system has been doing to the Indigenous peoples of this land.

I've lived here for nearly 53 years, have an Ontario birth certificate and Canadian passport, and I'm only being introduced now. I think it is reasonable that I be a little bit excited (and several other emotions, sometimes all at once) about this.

The more I learn in my Canadian Studies courses, the more I realize how many of the ideas I've personally believed the majority of my life aren't Canadian (or White, European, Abrahamic, etc).  Canada as a foreign system stands in the way of ideas that existed pre-colonial, and I have now come to hope to become dominant ideas again post-colonial.

Free land, resources, and no taxes for Whites

Since the 1990's I've believed our value systems were backwards. I have naively, as part of my learned racism, thought these values were near universal of humans.  We put a value (and price) on human labour, manipulations of nature by humans, and other human activities. We don't value and thus give away pretty much anything that is non-human for free.


Land, and all the resources that come from the land, are largely transferred with tiny one time fees (if at all) as an ideologically constructed form of "property" (exclusivity without responsibility). This hasn't made sense to me since I was a teen in the 1980's, as I always thought of land and her resources as something that we are borrowing from future generations.  I believed any form of exclusivity should be regulated by responsibility toward the future.

I found it interesting to read the “Free Housing for Indians” myth (chapter 16), given the land that a house sits on has far more intrinsic value than the house and yet Whites built entire economic systems based on "Free/cheap land for Whites". During the so-called "nation building" phase (more honestly, a nation replacing phase), White settlers were given free land as long as they "improved" it by chopping down trees and other such things using unsustainable management practices. And then this gifted land was "inherited" by or "sold" to other settlers as time went on.


One of the many reasons that left-leaning economic policy has never resonated with me is because of the narrow focus on the "ability to pay" when talking about taxation.

In the early 1990's I was primarily involved in municipal politics, and part of my shift to provincial politics was because of the Mike Harris years in Ontario.  I considered the concept of "Market Value assessment" for municipal taxes to be entirely backwards.  I believed municipal taxes should be assessed based on how much it cost to provide municipal services, how the use of land integrated with public values (walkability, protection of greenspace and prime farmland, etc), proximity to employment & enjoyment, and other such criteria.

While this policy change was brought in by a Progressive Conservative government the political-left hated with a passion, any conversations about moving away from this system for municipal taxes is aggressively opposed by the economic left. The political-left see it as a way to have municipal taxes be indirectly tied to "ability to pay" (if you can afford to live in an expensive home, you should pay more), and the political-right in Ontario see it as a way to favor  their voting base (suburbs and rural end up subsidized by higher taxes in urban centers).

It is, however, consistent with western worldviews to only consider humans, human labour, and other human activity as having value.  The cost of paving over prime farmland and forests to make "faster roads" and bigger houses in Ontario isn't seen as a massive loss, but as somehow being "progress".

I remember traveling to Toronto from Sudbury in my youth looking at the soil (amazing for growing) around what was being called the Holland Marsh that was being dug up to build a bigger highway 400. Human settlements and inefficient individualized transportation systems should be kept away from this area, not building close or on top of it.

Personally I consider it a telling aspect of "our" current society that fiscally and environmentally costly roads are paid for by taxes and considered "free" by everyone, yet high-speed digital communications within municipalities which have a many orders of magnitude lower cost and greater value in modern society are considered legitimate to be managed as a private sector service.

I've been asking for a very long time why road users aren't charged more taxes for their use of roads. But as typical in this White society, everybody doesn't get charged taxes for things which White worldviews believe shouldn't be taxed.

When it comes to resource extraction, the subsidies should be obvious.  The tiny royalties that are being charged are largely kept in specific provinces, even though the costs of this extraction (including but not limited to Climate Change) is expected to be paid for by everyone (on Turtle Island and globally).  While the most extractive provinces claim that they are the driver of the economy, they are in fact the driver of debt because the economic system doesn't account for the actual costs because it is giving away land and resources practically free.  Again, free stuff and no taxes for Whites.

I find the "Indigenous peoples don't pay taxes" (chapter 15) particularly nonsensical given the entire debate around the carbon tax is a form of "White people don't pay taxes".  It is built on this worldview where the actual costs of resource extraction should be subsidized off of taxes on labour, rather than resource extraction paying its own costs as well as a significant percentage of government services.

We should be seeking to phase out personal income taxes entirely, raising that money from resource extraction and human exclusive land use rents (IE: You pay yearly rents to municipalities and/or First Nations for exclusive access, not a one time fee and then perpetual exclusivity for free).

Income that is at or below a "moderate livelihood" should be tax free and paperwork free, and taxes on income should only apply to immoderate livelihoods.


The concept of a "moderate livelihood" is important to me. I believe land and other exclusivity-without-responsibility individual "wealth" is borrowed from future generations. I don't believe it should be inherited individually from ancestors.  I believe that an amount of wealth up to 5 times a yearly "moderate livelihood" should be able to be transferred based on the wishes of an individual, but anything beyond that should be returned to the community upon an individual's death.

I've been an opponent of the GST since it was introduced.  While I believe goods should be taxed, to ensure payment is made for everything from extraction to safe disposal, I have never believed that services or labour should be taxed at all.

If anything, we should be subsidizing specific type of labour such as repair by taxing manufacturing/importing higher.  We should be instigating a "right to repair" law that goes far beyond outlawing the use of "technical protection measures" to lock down electronics (including farm equipment), but a positive right that requires manufacturers to make repairs easy as a condition for certification to be sold.   (IE: I have a few WaterPic electric toothbrushes where the manufacturer deliberately made it harder to change batteries -- you need a soldering iron to do so. Manufacturers shouldn't be allowed to do that).

The focus on humans has made it impossible for the systems of Canada and other Western worldview countries to think in sustainable terms.  They want the things which actually have a cost to be free and untaxed, and instead want government funding to come from the things which should instead be free.

But, this isn't about Whites, as everyone pays the same way?

I've had several versions of this conversation already, and my anti-racism training only started last year.  I am barely beginning to imagine how exhausting it has been their entire lives for BIPOC.

While it is true that people largely pay the same taxes no matter what their skin colour, what does and doesn't get taxed, and what you do and don't have to pay for, is entirely based on European/White worldviews.  Essentially, you can have whatever skin colour you want, but you must still live in a European (British) society that exists outside of Europe.

I consider it offensive that European systems of government impose themselves on peoples outside of Europe, which is the only place they legitimately exist.

The article First Nations farming in the Prairies (chapter 23) was informative in touching on how offensive the colonial government of Canada is in imposing its foreign ideologies. After forcibly migrating Indigenous populations to areas not suited to farming, and not delivering farm implements promised as part of international treaties, the Indigenous farmers were still successful. (Quoting from an academic article reference from the blog article):

During the early 1880s … many First Nations farmers were successful in competing in the farming economy along with the non-aboriginal farmers.  Utilizing newly developed dry land farming techniques and acting as a collective, many First Nations won local prizes and awards for their crops
So what happened?
Settlers complained about the competition, and the colonial government stepped in by weaponizing European individualism.  They knew that if Indigenous peoples were no longer allowed to act as a collective, or produce food for market, or even be allowed to leave reserves without permission, they could no longer pose a competitive threat to under-productive (lets just call them lazy, shiftless, untied and unfamiliar with the land, and less skilled) White settlers.

There you go, putting FNMI up on some sort of pedestal?

I understand why that might be a first reaction, and a few of my friends have made this comment in recent months.

If I lived in a settler municipality operating under an Anishinabek National government (given which parts of Turtle Island I've lived on during my life), there is no way for me to guess what I would be asked to pay for or how I would be taxed.

I don't often agree with the decisions made by my existing municipal, provincial or federal governments. I do not expect I would agree with every decision made by a municipal, National/Confederacy, or Turtle Island League of Nations(1) government built upon Indigenous laws and worldviews.

I am confident in believing that since the worldviews of most peoples, governments and Nations indigenous to this homeland are closer to my own, that it would be able to do far better than these European derived governments and other systems have been capable of.

I have no idea how governance would work.  Pre-contact, Nations set up treaties between each other to share.  Since European worldviews have been proven over centuries to be incompatible with sharing, I don't believe that model will work with the European settlers that are here. I don't think setting up White reserves would be a useful long-term solution, although something like that might be appropriate as a transitional measure.

I don't believe I should be given a vote in that decision, but my guess is that in the longer term something similar to an immigration process will be needed.  Foreigners who are able to adopt into Indigenous worldviews could be welcomed, and other people allowed to temporarily visit (refugees/etc) but otherwise expected to return to their homeland if they aren't interested in adopting the laws, systems and worldviews Indigenous to this land.

In decolonizing and landback: they don't want your pool, I referenced how there is no serious interest expressed in sending settlers back to their homelands.
I do, however, expect that there will be a (hopefully small) subset of people currently residing on this homeland that will never be willing to come into better relations with these lands and its peoples.

Honestly, if you really feel you must live under a European government, there are several in Europe to choose from.

(1) I suspect there will be a need to coordinate at a union of confederacies level, even if only for this northern part of Turtle Island, such as for trade and defense.  Coordinating defense will be important given there are always going to be foreign nations that are going to want to steal the wealth.

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