Urban native mothers picket MP’s office By Chen Chekki - The Chronicle-Journal May 13, 2005
Native people accusing Canada Revenue of using their child tax credits to pay off taxes vented their anger Thursday in protests in several Canadian cities, including Thunder Bay.
Almost 100 urban native mothers and their families marched in front of the office of MP Joe Comuzzi (L-Thunder Bay-Superior North) to inform him that the tax dispute has made it more difficult for low-income families to buy food and clothing for their children.
They held placards that read “CRA holding working mothers and children hostage” and “We gave our land, you gave us poverty.” Tammy Bobyk, a mother of two children, said her child tax benefits have fallen from $220 to $50 a month.
“By taking away child tax benefits, Revenue Canada is directly causing us to sink further into poverty,” the Thunder Bay resident said. “It’s a move that’s hurting the most vulnerable in our communities — our children.”
It all stems from an agreement reached between the Canada Revenue Agency and the O.I. Group of Companies in 1995. The O.I. is a native-owned company based at Six Nations First Nation near Brantford, employing about 1,000 natives across Canada to help native non-profit groups.
The O.I. said changes in tax guidelines in 1995 threatened the tax-exempt status of those with First Nation treaty rights.
Four of O.I.’s launched a court challenge of the changes and the O.I. struck the deal with the CRA that set up a system for handling native tax returns until the four court cases were finished.
O.I. members, nearly three-quarters of them mothers earning about $32,000 a year, are supposed to be able to file tax returns and objections to their tax reassessments. The CRA is required to freeze the processing of their taxes at that point, without charging taxes or taking away benefits until the court cases are done.
Natives claim the CRA has been taking some or all of their child tax benefits to cover reassessed tax bills.
In some cases, members were given benefits and then had them taken away, charged O.I. president Roger Obonsawin.
He alleged that the CRA is targeting his members because his company is the only one helping to fight the 1995 tax revisions in court.
Meanwhile, a spokesman for Comuzzi said Thursday that the protesters did not try to make contact with the MP before they picketed. A meeting is being scheduled.
A spokeswoman for Canada Revenue said the protesters’ concerns have been addressed in writing.
She wouldn’t elaborate further, citing the need to respect confidentiality rights.