Cross Country Checkup·Q&A

'First of all, it's their land': Caller suggests new tax as part of Indigenous reconciliation

Stephen Driver in Montreal called Checkup to propose a new tax that would support First Nations without access to lucrative natural resources.

Resource rights are important, but we need to support First Nations without them, says Stephen Driver

Many First Nations across Canada don't have access to lucrative natural resources like oil and gas, prompting Checkup caller's suggestion. (Larry MacDougal/Canadian Press)

Sunday on Checkup, host Duncan McCue asked a live audience in Prince Rupert, B.C., if it's time for Canada to transfer resource rights back to First Nations, and what that would mean to Indigenous peoples and all Canadians.

Stephen Driver in Montreal called to weigh in on the debate and had a unique proposal for Indigenous reconciliation in the form of financial reparations by way of a new property tax.

Here's part of Driver's conversation with McCue.

Stephen Driver: I'd just like to state before I get my comment that I'm 100 per cent in support of First Nations having control of their resources. That's a given to me.

Right now in Canada we have a federal government leader who is in support of Aboriginal rights — who wants to promote those rights — and I believe that a majority of Canadians are in a mindset that they want to come to some sort of reconciliation with Aboriginals and First Nations.

My idea would be ... on my property tax, I wouldn't mind seeing a $50 Aboriginal tax on my little piece of land I have here. If that was passed by the federal government as a law to right across Canada, I think with over 30 million properties in Canada, that would add up to a $1.5 billion dollar fund that could be dispersed, not to the government, but directly to the Aboriginal people. I think the majority of Canadians would buy into that.

On my property tax, I wouldn't mind seeing a $50 Aboriginal tax on my little piece of land I have here.- Stephen Driver

You've got to realize something when you say, 'Give them the rights for the resources' … there's a lot of First Nations here in Quebec that don't have any natural resources. There are First Nations reserves in Nova Scotia and New Brunswick and they don't have oil and gas.

Yes, it would benefit the First Nations that do have resources and they have a right to those resources. But I'm talking about reconciliation right across Canada.

Duncan McCue: You say that you support the principle of first nations having greater control over resources. Why?

First of all, it's their land. And because that's their land, whatever's below that land is theirs. Why should the federal government be involved? Why should provincial governments be money grabbing off of land that was historically theirs right from the beginning of humanity?

They've been here for thousands of years. It's only through written legislation that was written 300 years ago by lobbyists and politicians that they don't have a right to have access to these resources. I think that has been changed.

Written by Champagne Choquer. Q&A has been edited for length and clarity. To hear the full interview, click 'Listen' above.