The high price of goods in the Arctic, sometimes two to three times that of southern Canada, is prompting Inuit leaders throughout the North to ask the federal government to reconsider GST charges on purchases made by the Inuit.
Inuit Tapiriit Kanatami (ITK) president Jose Kusugak recently wrote a letter to Finance Minister Ralph Goodale, asking that the Arctic be made exempt from the tax.
An unknown shopper in Rankin Inlet checks out the high price of produce. - photo courtesy of Jose Kusugak
The cost of transportation doubles and sometimes triples the price of goods and services, said Kusugak.
"Inuit therefore end up paying double and triple the GST on goods.
"Furthermore most people, even in government, are not aware that Inuit pay taxes, mistaking Inuit for First Nations. We want to pay our fair share but the GST is unfair to Inuit," said Kusugak.
Pita Aatami, president of the Makivik Corporation, a non-profit organization owned by the Inuit of Nunavik in Northern Quebec, agrees with Kusugak.
"I hope they'll be listening. We've been working on this since they introduced the GST. We protested when it was starting to be introduced and made representations to the Senate but we weren't able to get anything done at that time," said Aatami.
"Hopefully, the next step will be to start having meetings with federal officials," said Aatami.
The GST has been a longstanding issue for Inuit in the Arctic, said ITK communications manager Stephen Hendrie.
"It's something our president as well as the leaders of the regional Inuit associations have been commenting on for years about the nature of the GST and its essential unfairness," said Hendrie.
Hendrie added, the framers of the GST did not fully consider the effects of the tax on Inuit living in the Arctic.
"The cost of living is three to four times the cost for the rest of Canada," said Hendrie. The distance of the Arctic to central Canada, the sealift and cargo on airplanes are all subject to the GST, all of which increases the cost of items purchased by Inuit, said Hendrie.
"The cost of living is already high enough. If (the GST) could be abolished, it would go a long ways in helping Northern residents. It's for the government to decide," Aatami said.
"I hope they'll listen to the people of the North. The higher cost of living makes it all that much harder for Inuit to buy goods and the people in the south never took that under consideration."