First Nations Tax Commission – Commission de la fiscalité des premières nations
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Little Shuswap Lake Indian Band

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The FNTC undertook a video project profiling First Nations to celebrate their successes in using property taxation to build their economies and generate revenues. The intent was to revisit the past 25 years of First Nation property taxation in Canada and allow First Nations themselves to share how property taxation has impacted their community and what it means to them.

Little Shuswap First Nation video transcript

Background on community property taxation.
[Stewart] Little Shuswap Indian Band is made up of five separate reserves spread over the interior of British Columbia. We have a membership of 320 band members of which approximately 90 to 200 yet live on reserve.

[Brian] We’ve undertaken property taxation jurisdiction in since 1993 or ’94. And I guess we’ve probably generated in excess of $10 million in revenues for our community.

What does property tax mean to you?
[Nicolette] Property tax means to me: development. It gives us options, it gives us the opportunity to expand on what we have to provide better quality to the service we have to ensure we have infrastructure that’s maintained and grows as we grow as a community.

Why did you First Nation get involved in collecting property tax?
[Stewart] It was a logical second step, we’ve been leasing land since 1960, and as we move through the course of time, property tax was the next logical step in terms of enhancing our jurisdiction, allowing us to move forward into a more municipal-based style of governance.

[Brian] We started collecting property taxes in light of the own-source revenue decisions and the way that the federal government was going. Our community recognized the need and the importance of generating revenues without strings attached.

[Nicolette] Taxation provides us another opportunity for revenue generation. And with that it gives us some independence. It allows us to expand on what we have without having to depend on other agencies for review, for approval. It puts the driver’s seat back in the community where they want to be.

How has property tax supported economic development in your community?
[Brian] With the advent of property taxes we’re able to create infrastructure programs that allowed us to enhance further leasing on our properties. So hand in hand leasing the land, we actually generate revenues and from that we get exceeded in tax revenues as well.

[Nicolette] With property tax, we know what we’re looking at from one year to the next. We’re to do our budgets in a way that has an economic development plan that makes sense. We can go step by step through it to get to a point of having community services in place: community halls, water lines, sewage systems. It’s not just above the ground assets that we look at but it’s imperative that we have below surface assets that gives a quality of life that’s deserving on a reserve.

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