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Dollars and cents or status cards and nonsense?

I admit it. I don't get white people, or as we call them in the 'hood, the colour challenged. More specifically, I don't get white business people. They and their ways confuse me. I'm sure they make sense, as much sense as does Canadian politics, the war in Iraq or the popularity of Canadian Idol.

For instance, reserves all over Saskatchewan have suddenly been flooded with sheets and sheets and sheets of faxes from local car dealers advertising their vehicular wares. This is because in the next few months, more than a billion dollars will be paid out to survivors of the residential schools. Some former students will get more than $30,000 in compensation for what they had to endure in those institutions of debased learning. In total, we are talking about tens of thousands of Native people across Canada.

Like good entrepreneurs, most car dealers know that low-income people who suddenly get a large influx of cash tend to go on shopping sprees, like lottery winners or those who beat the odds at casinos. Thus the need to fax every faxable number in these Saskatchewan First Nation communities. This I understand. Capitalism. A little sleazy in this case, but understandable.

Why just Saskatchewan though? Who knows? One Saskatchewan car dealer claims he was completely unaware of the compensation packages. He just decided late June is a hell of a good time to paper the electronic Native world advertising his rock bottom price for a 2007 Kia Sportage. His prices just can't be beat.

What a coinkydink!

Here in Peterborough, a different battle between commerce and Aboriginalism occasionally takes place. In the Curve Lake newsletter a few weeks ago, it was reported that a certain bath and bedroom store in town refused to honour status cards. That is to say they refused to subtract the provincial sales tax (PST) from goods purchased with the intention of taking them back to the reserve when presented with a valid certificate of Indian Status. The same has happened, I've heard, with other local shops and stores, including a well-known international perfume and bath company. I, myself, when visiting a store specializing in repairing and replacing glass, was told when whipping out my status card, "Oh we don't do that here. If you want to do that, you'll have to apply to the government yourself."

Needless to say, a lot of fellow Natives and I were and are disappointed by this attitude. When you consider the bigger picture, these companies could be losing a heck of a lot of money from irate and annoyed First Nations customers. Granted we may not be an overwhelming tidal wave of consumer force, but we can still give a good consumer kick in the shins when we want to.

Especially when you consider the other side of the coin. I am speaking of the flood of white people who storm the smoke shacks searching for low cost cigarettes in this and other Native communities, looking to save those precious few cents they will need as they toboggan towards a promising future of lung cancer and emphysema. I've been in some of those stores to buy less health inhibiting products and been absolutely amazed by non-Native people staggering out the door carrying 15 to 20 cartons of cigarettes in their arms. Thanks to these people for supporting our Aboriginal businesses, really, but there is such a thing as overkill. Literally.

So, do you see my dilemma? Some stores give us attitude for requesting something that we are allowed as an inducement towards achieving a certain amount of economic success. Yet, average Canadians are so willing to take advantage of a particular loophole regarding the sales of carcinogens on reserve. Next week one of the smoke shacks is having a sale on Agent Orange and some home grown nuclear waste.

As for applying for reimbursement of the PST ourselves, I've read the Indian Act. Nowhere in it could I find any mention of us doing the paperwork to get money back that we shouldn't have had tagged on to the bill in the first place. Hey, you guys invented paper work. So you do it.

Or how about this? In order to keep a certain amount of commercial parity happening, everybody who has ever bought a cigarette on a reserve should boycott any store that charges Native people PST. Let's see what happens then. This might work because rumour has it that bath and bedroom place recently reneged on its no status card policy after some irate responses and feared a potential blockade of its pots and pans section.


Drew Hayden Taylor

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Title Annotation:strictly speaking
Author:Taylor, Drew Hayden
Geographic Code:1CANA
Date:Sep 1, 2007
Previous Article:Community says goodbye to Elder and environmentalist.
Next Article:Aboriginal post-secondary students: one-fifth of a person?

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