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Taxed Teachings

A few weeks ago, I had the pleasure of connecting with Sabra Thompson, a Community-Appointed Métis Elder in residence at Capilano University and the Director of the Vancouver Sea to Sky Métis Association. Our connection was driven by Sabra's passionate advocacy work to raise awareness about the often-overlooked issue of the taxation of honorariums. She has been actively seeking ways to inform the public about this important matter. I shared with her that our newsletter has a wonderful, compassionate community of subscribers and suggested that she write a guest post to share her insights. She graciously accepted. Thank you for your contribution, Sabra!


"It is customary for Indigenous Elders to be cared for by the community. These Knowledge Keepers act as custodians of cultural knowledge, language, and traditions. Their contributions to preserving and nurturing the heritage of their Nation are invaluable. Elders are chosen within their communities by their lived experience, traditional knowledge, and spirituality. An elder is referred to the hiring institution to represent their Nation. This is not a job description that anyone can apply for, the honor is given, and it comes with great responsibility.

Canada is a country of over six hundred diverse Nations, and many have the tradition of reciprocity. In the past an Elder could be a gift of tobacco, a meal, fish and game, daily needs, groceries, etc. Traditionally, it was rare that monetary contributions were made but times are changing fast. Now, in urban areas, Elders are being called to share their knowledge in Hospitals, Correctional Institutions, Universities/schools, Governmental institutions to name a few. Elders are being asked to perform Welcoming’s to their territory, Prayers, Ceremony, Openings for visitors/staff presentations, knowledge sharing, traditional teachings, art, and crafting to name a few. They are not employment roles with job security and benefits, they are called upon as required. In recognition of their unique roles, these institutions are correctly offering honoraria in the spirit of reciprocity.

By sharing their knowledge, Elders are serving as living repositories of oral histories, traditional practices and language that are not often documented. In sharing with the younger community in schools, they are ensuring the survival and continuity of their cultures. Sharing in the mainstream institutions benefits the overall community in practicing reconciliation. It would be honoring, and acknowledging, their service to the community and society at large by offering tax free honorariums.

Many Indigenous Elders, being in the age group of 60 – 90+, face financial hardships. Across Turtle Island Indigenous Peoples endure historical injustices, land dispossession, forced assimilation policies and ongoing discriminations. This has left many Indigenous economically disadvantaged. Providing tax free honorariums can alleviate some of the financial burdens elders face, many collecting Social Assistance, Pension and Disability and living below poverty level.

Furthermore, tax free honoraria can be seen as a form of reparative justice. Indigenous peoples have endured centuries of systemic oppression and marginalization. Tax free honorariums are a step toward rectifying these historical injustices. An honorarium recognizes the contributions of Elders and is a gesture of respect and acknowledgement of their invaluable work. Tax free honorariums could be seen to strengthen cultural preservation efforts, elders would be empowered to dedicate more time and resources to cultural preservation activities.

Recognizing the value of Indigenous elders through tax free honorariums promotes intergenerational equity. It upholds the importance of respecting and valuing the knowledge of the older generations. This brings back the teachings of respecting and honoring the Elders, their lived experience and traditional knowledge. Strengthening the communities in unity and tradition.

Offering tax free honorariums to Indigenous elders recognizes their essential role in cultural preservation, addresses economic disparities and contributes to reparative justice. It is a meaningful way to honor their contributions, support continued efforts, and promote the survival and flourishing of Indigenous cultures. By investing in Indigenous elders, society invests in the preservation of invaluable cultural heritage for future generations."

Sabra's "big ask" is that you consider lending your voice to this issue and writing a letter of support. Compositions can be sent to Peter Julian, M.P. New Westminster-Burnaby at ​​. Also, please consider sharing the email to folks in your circle or on social media. Thank you for your reconcili-ACTION.

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