A historical change has taken place for Huu-ay-aht First Nations (HFN) Citizens regarding taxation exemptions on Treaty Settlement Lands as of November 13, 2023. The termination of the Huu-ay-aht FNGST agreement (which was slated to take effect December 31, 2023), officially ceases to exist and is no longer in effect. The HFN government has taken necessary steps to make the exemption available again to citizens in a timely manner.
What this means for Huu-ay-aht citizens is, Huu-ay-aht will return to the original taxation exemption status prior to the Maa-nulth treaty which came into effect April 1, 2011.
Specifically, both GST and PST will remain exempt for HFN Citizens and the December 31 FNGST will NO longer take effect.
In 2022, Canada changed its long-standing policy that required modern treaties to phase out the tax exemptions in Section 87 of the Indian Act. On effective date the Maa-nulth Treaty required the sales, income, and property tax exemptions phased out. The sales tax exemptions ended in 2019, and the income and property tax exemptions are scheduled to end December 31,, 2023.
However, through negotiations with the Federal and Provincial Governments modern treaty nations may now choose to maintain the exemption for as long as they want and take up direct tax jurisdiction when or if they choose to.
This amendment puts tax jurisdiction back into the hands of treaty governments.
It gives Huu-ay-aht First Nations (HFN) government the flexibility to choose when to draw down taxation authority as part of the self-governance and self-determination HFN has under treaty.
It was a beautiful sunny day in the Ḥahuułi (traditional territory) of Huu-ay-aht First Nations as everyone gathered for the swearing-in ceremony for the newly elected executive council on Tuesday, July 4, 2023. The day began at the Pachena River, where Executive Council, Ḥaw̓iiḥ Council (Hereditary Chiefs), and guests took part in a cultural ceremony, Oosimch (Spiritual Bathing), and yax̣šiƛ (brushing). It was followed by the swearing-in ceremony at the House of Huu-ay-aht.
On Saturday, June 17, 2023, Huu-ay-aht citizens of eligible voting age placed their vote, and the newly elected council is as follows:
Chief Councillor John Jack
Councillors Edward R. Johnson Brad Johnson Stephen Rayner Stella Peters Evan Cook
Ḥaw̓iiḥ Council has appointed Theresa Nookemus as the Ḥaw̓iiḥ representative for Executive Council.
Before the Executive Council pledged the Huu-ay-aht oath, speaker, Angela Wesley started the ceremony with two council members receiving traditional names, John Jack and Brad Johnson.
Huu-ay-aht speaker and knowledge holder, wišqii (Robert Dennis Jr.), gave Chief Councillor John Jack his traditional name, Sayaač̓atḥ (sa-yaa-chut), meaning “house on the bluff”. Huu-ay-aht citizens, Larry Johnson, gave Executive Council member, Brad Johnson his traditional name, Wiiheyakchikk, meaning “close to shore”.
Ḥaw̓iiḥ council is interested in all Huu-ay-aht people having a traditional name. As Executive Council begins their four-year term, Ḥaw̓iiḥ felt it was important that they all have a traditional name.
Following the naming ceremony, the speaker, Angela Wesley and Executive Council pledged the Huu-ay-aht oath.
As part of the ceremony, Huu-ay-aht Women (Youth and Elders) stood in front of the newly elected council members and asked them questions. Council members stood holding a cedar rope, and this rope symbolizes that they will carry the questions and the pledge they took to support these Huu-ay-aht women everywhere they go.
Huu-ay-aht Youth, Natalie Clappis asked, “do you swear to make decisions and choices that will continue to benefit now and future generations?” and “Do you swear to create opportunities to hear Huu-ay-aht youth’s input ?”
Huu-ay-aht Citizen, Kiana Mio asked, “Do you swear to lead by example in the protection of woman, children, two-spirited, and men of Huu-ay-aht from sexual, physical, emotional and spiritual harm?” and “Do you swear to invest in strengthening social safety and preventative measures to ensure prosperity and wellness for all of Huu-ay-aht community?”
Huu-ay-aht Elder, Deb Cook shared her story as a residential school survivor, and with her story, she asked,
“Do you think that council and staff should protect all citizens from physical, mental, and spiritual abuses?”
“I’d like to see zero tolerance from all Huu-ay-aht citizens. A big ask is that the nation be a substance abuse-free community”
“Can you build and create a wellness/healing center or utilize existing buildings?”
“Can programs be made for our children, youth, and young adults like music, sports, crafts, cooking, to name a few?”
“All Huu-ay-aht citizens or anyone who was convicted of a crime against women and children should be identified and should not be allowed near anyone they offended or allowed in Huu-ay-aht community”
Angela Wesley stood with the women and had two words for council, harmony and unity.
“I want to see us happy and living together as a community” said Angela.
Angela shared a reminder that her uncle Robert Dennis Sr. always says, “There is no “I” in team, but Together Everyone Achieves More”.
The ceremony continued with speeches, singing and dancing, and snacks.
In their new roles, the elected executive council will have priorities and expectations as leaders of their portfolios. Chief Councillor John Jack will work with council members to determine their portfolios and announce them as soon as possible.
Huu-ay-aht First Nations welcomes the newly elected council for their four-year term, 2023-2027.
To see the swearing-in ceremony in full, the live stream can be viewed here: click here
In 2022 Canada changed its long-standing policy that required modern treaties to phase out the tax exemptions in Section 87 of the Indian Act. On effective date the Maa-nulth Treaty required the sales, income, and property tax exemptions phased out. The sales tax exemptions ended in 2019, and the income and property tax exemptions are scheduled to end December 31 2023.
Modern treaty nations may now choose to maintain the exemption for as long as they want and take up direct tax jurisdiction when or if they choose to. This amendment puts tax jurisdiction back into the hands of treaty governments. It gives Huu-ay-aht First Nations (HFN) government the flexibility to choose when to draw down taxation authority as part of the self-governance and self-determination HFN has under treaty.
Approving Treaty Amendments
To allow for this flexibility, the Maa-nulth Treaty needed to be amended, which requires agreement and approvals from all five Maa-nulth Treaty Nations, British Columbia, and Canada.
All Maa-nulth Nations completed the necessary special resolutions by their legislative bodies in March and April 2023. British Columbia’s Legislative Assembly completed their vote on May 9, 2023, with Chief Councillor Robert J. Dennis Sr. in attendance speaking on behalf of Maa-nulth Treaty Nations.
Canada is the final treaty partner to go through their respective approval process. It is the understanding of all treaty partners that Canada intends to complete their approval process before the House of Commons breaks for the summer. However, the Maa-nulth Nations have not yet received confirmation of a vote date at the time this article was printed.
The amendment does not come into effect until Canada finalizes their approval process.
After Treaty Amendment Approval
After the treaty amendment approval, the income and property tax exemption will continue to apply to status Indian citizens of Huu-ay-aht on existing reserves and lands that were reserves before becoming treaty, until HFN decides to exercise tax powers.
The return of the sales tax exemption does not come into effect immediately. Each Maa-nulth Nation currently shares in GST and PST, and each Nation can determine whether to continue collecting those revenues or to stop and make the exemption available again.
Like the income and property tax, the return of the sales tax exemption will only apply on existing reserves and lands that were reserves immediately before treaty. The exemption does not apply to all treaty lands.
It has been the position of this HFN government that the necessary steps would be taken to make the exemption available again to citizens in a timely manner. It will be the responsibility of the new HFN government to repeal existing GST and PST legislation, and terminate existing GST and PST sharing agreements. The existing GST and PST taxes are still in place until HFN has completed these additional implementation steps.
March/April – Maa-nulth First Nations legislatures complete their special resolutions to approve treaty amendments
May – British Columbia Legislative Assembly consents to the treaty amendments
June – Canada House of Commons approves treaty amendment*(This date is not confirmed and is subject to change)
After final approval, property and income tax exemption does not expire on December 31, 2023.
Summer and Fall 2023 – Implementation to regain sales tax exemptions
Huu-ay-aht repeals GST and PST clauses from its legislation
Huu-ay-aht terminates their GST and PST agreements
Huu-ay-aht communications team announces return of sales tax exemptions on reserves and lands that were reserves immediately before treaty
Note from Treaty Implementation Advisor – The content in this article is accurate up to May 29, 2023. The timeline is an estimate based on information provided by, and intent communicated by, the time of printing. The Timeline is not to be considered a confirmation of commitments by Canada, British Columbia, or the HFN executive council and legislature.
Raja Narayanan started as Chief Finance Officer for the Huu-ay-aht First Nation in April 2023.
Raja was born in Tamil Nadu, India, and moved to Canada in 2011 to pursue his postgraduate studies at Centennial College in Toronto. Raja received his Master of Finance and Control, Master of Business Administration, and Postgraduate in Financial Planning.
Currently, Raja is working towards his Certified Aboriginal Financial Manager, designated from the Aboriginal Financial Officers Association. This course work is concentrated on investments, financial management and reporting, and financial planning.
Before joining Huu-ay-aht, Raja worked with other First Nation organizations.
It started with him moving to the Yukon Territories in 2012 after completing his studies in Toronto, where he spent the next six years working in various First Nation governments. In 2018, he moved to Ucluelet, B.C., where he worked as a finance manager and assisted with the Modern Treaty’s implementation for two years.
Then following this, Raja was the financial controller at the First Nation Government’s Economic Development Organization in Nanaimo.
With years of experience, the Nation is please to have Raja join the team and work with Huu-ay-aht Government.