Following Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s announcement of a carbon tax exemption for home oil heating and other provinces now seeking exemptions for themselves, an Ontario Grand Chief is requesting a full exemption on Indigenous lands. 

Last week, Trudeau announced a three-year pause on federal carbon pricing for home oil heating, which predominantly benefits Atlantic Canadians. 

Ontario and the Prairies mostly use natural gas for heating, which has not been included in the feds’ carbon tax carve-out.

Grand Chief of the Akwesasne First Nation Abram Benedict is now advocating for an exemption on federal carbon pricing for all Ontario Indigenous reserves. 

Early this year, Benedict wrote a letter to Trudeau, demanding an exemption on behalf of the Chiefs of Ontario group, which passed a resolution calling for an exemption in 2019. 

According to Benedict, the carbon tax is in violation of rights granted under the Indian Act as well as his communities’ tax exemption status. 

“The carbon tax has been levied on our communities which, in our belief, is a direct infringement of our tax exemption protections under the Indian Act,” Benedict told the National Post.

Rebates on the carbon tax have been promised by the Trudeau government, however many people who live on reserves do not file taxes and therefore would not be eligible to receive the rebate. 

“It would require that every homeowner file income tax and in some situations, members don’t file tax returns,” said Benedict. “They probably work on reserves and don’t have any real benefits from filing income tax.”

Indigenous people are exempt from paying income tax for work they do on reserves under the Indian Act. 

It’s unclear how much government revenue will be lost if the carbon tax is scrapped on reserves. 

On Tuesday, the Trudeau government announced that no further exemptions will be granted regarding the carbon tax, following several requests from premiers to do so. 

Saskatchewan Premier Scott Moe threatened to have SaskEnergy refrain from collecting the federal carbon tax from residents, if an agreement cannot be reached. 

Ontario Premier Doug Ford and Alberta Premier Danielle Smith have both also asked for exemptions on natural gas heating and most recently, Manitoba’s NDP Finance Minister Adrien Sala. 

Trudeau defended the decision to just exempt oil heating, which creates higher emissions than natural gas, by saying that the cost for Atlantic Canadians to switch over to heat pumps or a less carbon intensive fuel was too costly at this time. 

“We are nothing if not a government that listens to people, that is focused on our goals and is willing to adjust as necessary,” said Trudeau.