Monday, December 15, 2008

Mythbusters

I've been meaning to discuss the Nunavut Land Claim Agreement (NLCA) for a long time now. The NLCA for those who don't know is the Agreement through which the territory officially came into existence in 1999. Mostly I held back due to my own lack of familiarity. I've found though that there tends be a great deal of misunderstanding surrounding the Land Claim (and I readily include myself in this group). I don't pretend to be an expert by any stretch of the imagination but there are a few comments or misconceptions that get tossed my way that tend to rankle me. I thought I'd start out with a couple of the more common ones I hear. I refer to the official version of the Land Claim here when I discuss a few myths or misconceptions regarding Nunavut. I consider myself a "normal" person (whatever that means) and I find I can only read through so much legalese before my eyes start to twitch but I will, as they say, give it the old college try.

Myth #1- Inuit own all of the territory known as Nunavut.

Fact - The landmass of Nunavut comprises 1 994 000 sq. km. Only a small percentage of Nunavut is Inuit-owned, a total of 353 375 sq. km (136 000 sq. miles) or 17.7%. The remainder is Crown Land. Inuit-owned lands include areas with "surface only rights" and subsurface rights". Inuit-owned land can only be traded or sold to government. (NLCA Article 19)

Myth #2 - Inuit do not pay GST (Goods and Services Tax) or income tax.

Fact- Inuit lands are not reserves under the Indian Act and do not qualify for the tax exemption available for Indian Reserves. Inuit pay income tax as well. Inuit and Inuit organizations pay tax on money they receive for renting or leasing Inuit-owned land. (NLCA Article 30)

Generally, Inuit do not pay taxes on Inuit lands unless businesses, services or buildings are present. Most Inuit lands lie outside of municipalities. Within municipalities, property is taxed if it is provided with electricity or water service, or if it has a business on it. Outpost camps are not taxed. (NLCA Article 22)

These are the two big misconceptions I hear most often that I wanted to get off my chest. An official version of the 1993 Nunavut Land Claim Agreement can be found here for your viewing pleasure.

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