Idle No More: Myths v Facts


Thank you to Myaz Nuggetz for
reblogging this article to her blog.


There are so many stereotypes about Aboriginals, that most people never bother to look any further than the myths.  This week, I decided to take on some of those stereotypes and share a few facts with people.

MYTH #1: Aboriginals in Canada don’t pay taxes … ever!

The fact of the matter is that about 30 percent of Aboriginals are Status who live and work on reserves. That makes for 70 percent of Aboriginals who do not live or work on reserves (Status, Non-Status, Metis, and Inuit).

But the only time that a Status Indian is considered tax exempt is when that Status Indian (as defined by the Indian Act) works on a reserve.

What’s that, you say? Let me say the same thing differently with the help of Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development Canada.

Aboriginals pay taxes on the same basis as other people in Canada. The only exception to the rule is found in the limited exemption under Section 87 of the Indian Act. Section 87 says that the “personal property of an Indian or a band situated on a reserve” is tax exempt.”


“Employment income earned by a Status Indian working on a reserve is considered tax exempt. The courts have stated that factors such as the location of the duties and residence of the employee and employer must be considered to determine whether the income will be considered tax exempt.”

Still not convinced? Maybe what the Canadian Bar Association’s position on the matter will change your mind.

“For income to be tax exempt, a series of “connecting factors” must link the income to the reserve. This “connecting factors test” is fact-specific and beyond the scope of this script. Because of the high levels of unemployment on most Indian reserves, these tax benefits are not as significant as many people think.”

So there you go. Myth #1 is busted.

MYTH #2: Aboriginals in Canada get free post-secondary educations.

Just like not all Non-Aboriginals get scholarships or students loans at the post-secondary level, not all Aboriginals get a “free” post-secondary education. In fact, not all eligible Aboriginal students have their tuition, travel costs and living expenses covered because the demand for support is greater than the annual funds allocated to this fund.

Furthermore, funding for the Post-Secondary Student Support Program has been capped since the mid-nineties and only increases in two percent increments every year. At a yearly two percent increase, it lags well behind the yearly inflation rate while tuition and living expenses continue to grow.

Myth #2 busted.

MYTH #3: Except for a few in the larger cities, Aboriginals in Canada live in remote areas of the country.

Isn’t it interesting that no one would think to say: Except for a few living in the suburbs, all non-Aboriginals live in metropolitan centers.

Back in 2006, Statistics Canada reported that 34% of Aboriginals lived in five major Canadian cities: Winnipeg, Edmonton, Vancouver, Calgary and Toronto.

By 2010, it was reported that more than 50% of Aboriginals live in urban centers.

Myth #3 busted as well.

MYTH #4: Aboriginals in Canada can’t legally own or operate a business.

This myth is part of the very ugly “Indians are lazy and don’t work” mythos.

First of all, there is the Aboriginal Business Canada through the Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development Canada department. Since this program exists within a federal department, this proves that Aboriginals in Canada are legally entitled to own and/or operate a business if this is the career path the individual chooses to follow.

Self-employed Aboriginals can be found across the country, with 23% of Aboriginals in Ontario, 22% of Aboriginals in British Columbia (22%) and 18% of Aboriginals in Alberta choosing the entrepreneurial life. In Quebec and Manitoba, it’s 10% with Saskatchewan at 8%, the Atlantic provinces in at 5% and the Territories at 3%. In other words, not only are Aboriginals legally entitled to own and/or operate a business, they are doing so in large numbers.

Just so you know, according to the government, 51% of those entrepreneurial businesses were launched by Aboriginal women.

Another myth busted.

MYTH #5: If Aboriginals in Canada start-up a business, that business usually fails within the first year.

Canada has been in a recession for years now, and the economy is tough for everyone, Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal alike. Still, 6 out of 10 Aboriginal owned and operated businesses reported a profit in 2010 (the most recent year that statistics were available).

An interesting fact is that 29% of Aboriginal businesses do not, and have not, accessed government programs in the start-up or maintenance of their business.

More interesting is that fact that the Canadian Council For Aboriginal Businesses state that 61% of on-reserve businesses and 76% of off-reserve businesses expect sales revenues to grow over the next 2 years.

The 5th myth is busted.

MYTH #6: When a land claim is successfully settled, Aboriginals in Canada make out like bandits and get tons of cash.

Settling a land claim is not like winning a big lottery. The government doesn’t show up with photographers and a great big prop check to hand over to the National Chief. Usually the pay out is in the form of economic development incentives, or reinvestment into a specific First Nations Trust. Sometimes there are direct payments to individuals but in cases such as that, the details of such payments are ratified by a community vote. And the pay out is only to the bands that are affected by the land claim that was successfully settled.

And the final myth in this list is busted.

Now let’s take a look at a four facts … four very ugly facts that need to be changed.  Four ugly facts that can be turned around when the stereotypes are no longer impacting negatively on Aboriginal peoples.

FACT #1: Aboriginals in Canada suffer a higher poverty rate than non-Aboriginals in Canada.

In the “Income Gap Between Aboriginal Peoples And The Rest Of Canada” report, it stated that the income gap was $7,083 higher in urban settings and $4,493 higher in rural settings. In fact, it was determined that median income for Aboriginal peoples was about 30% lowers than the median income for the rest of Canadians.

The problem appears to be ongoing difficulties with communication, understanding culture, and stereotypes and misconceptions about Aboriginal peoples. In fact, in a 1995 survey done by the federal government, 77% of employers identified these three points as being reasons why they were reluctant to hire Aboriginal employees.

FACT #2: Aboriginals in Canada suffer from a higher rate of substance abuse than Non-Aboriginals in Canada.

According to researchers, this is an unfortunate fact. An article on May 11, 2011 in Science Daily reported that:

“Most of the respondents reported having tried alcohol (88.5% of Aboriginal and 84.2% of non-Aboriginal youth). The average age at which they first tried alcohol was considerably lower among Aboriginal youth. Among those who had tried alcohol, Aboriginal youth were more likely to engage in binge drinking (91.9% compared to 85.2% of non-Aboriginals). Aboriginal youth also used marijuana (62.0%) and other illicit drugs (34.8%) more frequently compared with non-Aboriginal youth (41.0% and 20.6% respectively).”

Of course, other factors impact on why this may be so … especially Fact #1 with regards to employment and how employers view Aboriginals as employees and potential employees.

What’s more, the Council On Drug Abuse (CODA) has stated that substance abuse among Aboriginals can be connected to high rates of poverty, unemployment, family breakdown, and social and economic structures.

FACT #3: Aboriginals in Canada suffer from a higher suicide rate than Non-Aboriginals in Canada.

In fact, they are alarmingly higher. According to Health Canada, suicide rates are five to seven times higher for First Nations youth than for non-Aboriginal youth, while suicide rates among Inuit youth are among the highest in the world, at 11 times the national average.

When the “Statistical Profile on the Health of First Nations in Canada for the Year 2000” was published by Health Canada in 2003, it stated that “suicide and self-inflicted injuries are the leading causes of death for First Nations youth and adults up to 44 years of age.”

FACT #4: Aboriginals in Canada are incarcerated at a higher rate than Non-Aboriginals in Canada.

The Canadian Centre for Justice Statistics (CCJS), through the Adult Correctional Services Survey (ACS), has collected data since 1978 on the number of adults admitted to and released from correctional services in Canada. What they uncovered that was that while 3.1% of the Canadian population self-identified as Aboriginal in 2008, Aboriginal adults accounted for 17% of adults admitted to remand, 18% admitted to provincial and territorial custody, 16% admitted to probation and 19% admitted to a conditional sentence. In the past 5 years, those percentages have increased … three times higher than for Non-Aboriginals.

In Saskatchewan, Dale McFee, former police chief in Prince Albert and now deputy minister of corrections and policing in Saskatchewan’s Ministry of Justice, has stated that while 11% of Saskatchewan’s population is comprised of Aboriginals, Aboriginals make up 80% of the jail population.

Saskatchewan’s incarceration stats aren’t an anomaly. This is happening across Canada.

So while some of you are wondering whether to believe the myths and ignore the facts or believe the facts and ignore the myths, rest assured that Aboriginals are Idle No More and haven’t been idle for some time.  It’s time to put those stereotypes to rest.

Elyse Bruce


3 Responses to “Idle No More: Myths v Facts”

  1. Myaz_Nuggetz Says:

    Reblogged this on Myaz_Nuggetz.

  2. Idle No More: The Myth of the Lazy Indian (Part 1) | Elyse Bruce Says:

    […] that many weeks back, I wrote about some of the myths about North American Indians that continue to prevail in this day and age. One of […]

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