Iqaluit Mayor Kenny Bell wants to start taxing churches in Nunavut’s capital as the country mourns the discovery of anonymous graves in former residential schools.
Bell announced the idea in a Twitter post after about 751 anonymous graves were discovered near the site of a former residential school in Saskatchewan earlier this week.
âMy heart breaks with themâ¦ I wanted to make sure that we show solidarity with the Inuit, Aboriginal and MÃ©tis people across our country who are suffering from this news,â said Bell.
“We cannot allow churchesâ¦ that refuse to apologize and acknowledge their involvement in all of these deathsâ¦ to have more freedom in our country.”
At present, the earthly churches on which they sit in Iqaluit are exempt from tax. Bell said the board will need to vote on his motion to start the process at the next meeting, which is July 13.
Bell said he didn’t have a clear idea of ââwhat the tax might look like, but said at least one of the churches in Iqaluit has land worth around $ 1 million. .
He also doesn’t know how the board will vote, as many of the board members are religious. However, he added that at the start of their term, the council voted unanimously to remove prayer from the council’s agenda and replace it with a minute of silence.
âI just don’t know how people will vote,â he said. “The Catholic Church has to apologize. And I think that’s the only way to do them.”
Bell said if the motion passes he would think about using the money for affordable housing, but said ultimately that was the decision of council members.
âAs non-Indigenous members of Canada, we have to stand in solidarity with Indigenous peoples, we have to do this,â Bell said, adding that he believed all politicians should take similar steps to come to terms with Indigenous communities.
âThe stronger we make indigenous peoplesâ¦ the more we bring them forward, the stronger our country will be. “
Support is available for anyone affected by the effects of residential schools and those triggered by the latest reports.
The Indian Residential School Survivors Society (IRSSS) can be contacted toll free at 1-800-721-0066.
A national residential school crisis line has been established to provide support to former students and those affected. People can access emotional and crisis referral services by calling the 24-hour national crisis line: 1-866-925-4419.
The Northwest Territories Helpline offers free support to residents of the Northwest Territories, 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. It’s 100% free and confidential. The Northwest Territories helpline also has an option for follow-up calls. Residents can call the help line at 1-800-661-0844.
In Nunavut, the Kamatsiaqtut Hotline is open 24 hours a day at 1-800-265-3333. People are welcome to call for any reason.
In the Yukon, mental health services are provided to residents of Whitehorse and rural Yukon communities through Mental Wellness and Addiction Services. Yukoners can schedule quick-access counseling services in Whitehorse and all MWSU community centers by calling 1-867-456-3838.