Beginning in 2022, property owners in the City of Victoria will have the option of paying an additional property tax which will be paid to the two local First Nations in the municipality.
Going forward, the Annual Property Tax Mailing Kit will include information on how residential and commercial property tax owners can make a voluntary tax contribution, such as an amount equal to 5% or 10% of their property taxes.
For example, based on a 10% rate, the voluntary contribution of the owner of an average single-family home assessed in Victoria — valued at $1.07 million, according to BC Assessment — would be approximately $550 per year. for First Nations. The revenues collected by the town would go entirely to the Songhees First Nation and the Esquimalt First Nations.
In a 6-1 vote in late March, Victoria City Council backed the voluntary First Nations tax proposed by Mayor Lisa Helps. The only opposition vote came from Councilor Stephen Andrew, who was elected in the late 2020 by-election.
“The two nations on whose lands the city is located, they are not a charity or a cause. They are sovereign nations. And through the process of decolonization, they have been moved away from the heart of the territory, and those of us who now live in the heart of the territory are benefiting from the wealth of their lands,” Helps said at the meeting.
“This proposal really seeks to recognize the principle of reciprocity and responsibility towards Indigenous nations.
Councilor Charlayne Thornton-Joe’s comments and concerns have led to more emphasis on ensuring this is clearly a voluntary contribution. She says it comes at a time when businesses and residents are expressing they are coming out of a tough time.
“We don’t want to put pressure on people, we want this to come from people’s hearts, that’s why it’s completely voluntary and why it’s tied to property taxes, because we’re generating land that doesn’t belong to us. “, said Helps. , which also acknowledged rising inflation and cost of living issues.
But the policy was strongly reprimanded by Andrew, who claimed the proposal process lacked transparency and was beyond the purview of a city government.
“It’s not our jurisdiction, it’s not our place, and for those reasons I don’t think we should. I support reconciliation efforts, however, this motion is another foray by this council into what is clearly within federal and provincial jurisdiction,” Andrew said, before joking that “to me this is a sign of pure virtue”.
“If the council wants to influence matters of federal and provincial jurisdiction, and that is their interest, my suggestion is that they work in those areas and get elected in those areas. My interest is to keep the City of Victoria within its jurisdictional boundaries, and that ensures good governance for our citizens and engages in meaningful reconciliation. For these reasons, I cannot support this motion.
In February 2022, City Council also approved a $200,000 annual reconciliation grant to First Nations. The grant was approved by a 6-2 vote, with Andrew and Councilor Geoff Young opposed.