On June 7, 2017, First Nations in BC participated in a province-wide strategic dialogue session on defining a new fiscal relationship for First Nations and the Crown. Discussion focused on the principles of a new fiscal relationship that could support stable self-government. First Nations Summit (FNS) Chiefs-in-Assembly discussed supporting and advancing the principles with the Assembly of First Nations through a resolution.
A First Nations-Crown fiscal relationship determines many things for First Nations, including jurisdiction over taxation, the ability to generate revenue and engage in revenue sharing services and the transfer amounts from other governments to ensure First Nation services are delivered to national standards.
The current fiscal relationship does not recognize sufficient First Nation tax or service jurisdiction and does not provide stable, long-term revenues to support First Nation planning, services and infrastructure at national standards. In essence, it is not a nation-to-nation relationship.
The principles of a new fiscal relationship that support stable self-government were identified and discussed during the session, including:
New relationship to reflect the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, in particular, Article 4
A new First Nations-Crown fiscal relationship must reflect Article 4 of the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples: “Indigenous Peoples, in exercising their right to self-determination, have the right to autonomy or self-government in matters relating to their internal and local affairs, as well as ways and means for financing their autonomous functions.”
Expanded tax powers and clear revenue and service jurisdiction
First Nations need protected and certain tax powers and clear jurisdictions that are similar to other governments. Also needed is a legislative framework for the transfer payment system that provides autonomy and flexibility. Finally, First Nations must be consulted on any legislation from other governments that may impact the First Nations fiscal relationship.
Incentives for economic development
First Nations need broader and more certain transfers and tax jurisdictions so they are not forced into commercial enterprises to create revenue. They also need incentives to develop better quality services and seek service efficiencies. The relationship between own source revenue (OSR) and transfers must create incentives and not unduly penalize First Nations for developing their revenue base.
Revenue related to service responsibilities
First Nations should have a clearly defined bundle of service responsibilities and a related bundle of clearly defined revenue options to help meet the costs of these services. Tying specific revenue jurisdictions to specific service responsibilities leads to better services and infrastructure and supports accountability from all governments to citizens.
First Nation jurisdictions and revenue authorities need protections comparable to the provinces and First Nations should have comparable quality and access to government services. First Nations need the revenues to be able to provide services up to the national standards in order to “catch up” and “keep up” to the quality of life enjoyed by other Canadians.
The quality of and access to First Nation statistics must be improved and First Nations will need independent capacity to develop statistics to support a new fiscal relationship.
First Nations require our own institutions to support, protect and expand jurisdictions and for capacity development, training and advice. First Nations also require our own institutions to establish standards and tools, and carry out research, advocacy and government-to-government relationship building.
The resolution was passed and the FNS Chiefs-in-Assembly are encouraging First Nations to review and discuss these principles within their respective communities and to refine them as necessary to meet each community’s unique vision.