Iqaluit’s mayor wants to tax city’s churches

Roman Catholic church says taxation will limit its ability to serve the community

Iqaluit Mayor Kenny Bell says he is going to table a motion to tax churches in Iqaluit at the next city council meeting on July 13. (Photo by David Venn)

By David Venn
Local Journalism Initiative Reporter

Iqaluit’s mayor says churches should be taxed and he will bring forward a motion to make them pay municipal property taxes at the next city council meeting, scheduled for July 13.

Mayor Kenny Bell tweeted he would move to amend the city’s exemption from property taxation bylaw shortly after news broke on June 24 that remains of 751 bodies, many of which are believed to be former students, had been located in unmarked graves at the former Marieval Indian Residential school, which is about 160 kilometres east of Regina, Sask.

“We’re not retaliating against them; they literally killed thousands of children,” he said in an interview with Nunatsiaq News.

There are 16 groups that are exempt from paying property taxes under the city’s bylaw. Churches and religious groups make up half of them.

Bell says the law should be reserved for groups that provide value to the city.

“Tax exemptions, as a whole, are supposed to be for groups that do the community good. It’s very clear that the Catholic church hasn’t done the community any good.”

He said he wants to send a message to the Catholic church that people want it to release documents about the history of residential schools and to make apologies, and that this is the only way for the city to put pressure on the church.

“Other than [removing the tax exemption], there’s no [recourse] to deal with them,” he said.

But Bell is not just eyeing the Catholic church. He told Nunatsiaq News he intends for his motion to target all of the city’s churches.

“I’m not trying to pick on any one person,” he said.

Representatives for Saint Jude’s Anglican Cathedral and the Pentecostal Church did not respond to requests for comment.

In a written statement, Rev. Daniel Perreault, a priest at the Iqaluit Roman Catholic Church said his church “stands in solidarity with the Native peoples of Canada,” but “it is sad that the mayor of our community chooses to target the churches of Iqaluit by proposing to cancel the property tax exemption provisions.”

Perreault said the Iqaluit Catholic church is a community group that can’t control whether Pope Francis apologizes for the church’s involvement in residential schools.

“Placing an additional financial burden on the parish does not harm the Canadian or world-wide Catholic church, which is not responsible for our financial viability,” Perreault said. “It rather limits our ability to help our fellow Iqalummiut.”

Plus, he said the diocese responsible for the Iqaluit Catholic church was the first in Canada to apologize to residential school survivors in 1996, and again in 2014.

The church will join the rest of the community in looking “for the whole truth” about residential schools, he said.

In December, Indigenous leaders are scheduled to meet with Pope Francis at the Vatican.

The Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops said in a June 29 statement that the Pope is “deeply committed to hearing directly from Indigenous Peoples, expressing his heartfelt closeness, addressing the impact of colonization and the role of the church in the residential school system.”

Perreault said he is hoping for a positive meeting.

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(56) Comments:

  1. Posted by PAY YOUR FAIR SHARE on

    Have any of the churches actually read the Bible?

    “Render unto god that which is owed to God. Render unto Caesar that which is owed to Caesar.”

    Your faith is something you can have with God privately. Pay your fair share towards the upkeep of the city!

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  2. Posted by John W Paul Murphy on

    Probably the most ridiculous thing I have heard come out of this hamlet council’s mayor’s mouth.
    This ridiculous idea does nothing but put more financial pressure on the Iqaluit congregation and clearly putting the issue of residential schools back on the victims.
    “I’m not trying to pick on one person!” Bull roar you aren’t. It seems the good mayor might be seeking re-election with this studpidity. Fail Mr B. Fail,

    What is next Mr. B? Free matches?

    Your job is to bring the community and capital together. Not further divide it.

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    • Posted by Chad H on

      Since when has “financial pressure” been a good excuse not to tax an organisation? Can we all use that excuse?

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  3. Posted by Thomas Aggark on

    we are different people in the same country, aboriginal people who lives in their own country with their own struggles, their own lifestyle.

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  4. Posted by Concerned on

    So the Catholic Church provides services to Catholic people. They don’t do baptism, wedding or funerals for outsiders.
    But the Anglican Church offers those services to the whole community. So if the church can’t pay the taxes, guess the funerals, baptisms, ext. .. will all cost money. Maybe they will stop offering counseling to people at the hospital and the jail’s. Maybe the Anglican Church will start charging the soup kitchen thrift store to help pay wtheir new taxes. They will ask for higher donations from elders that attend every week. For all non religious people, the Angelican church does their funerals for free. What it they stop? What if people have to pay. Does that mean no more funerals for non Angelican church members?

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  5. Posted by Again? on

    Another great idea from the mayor of Iqaluit to get his Name in lights! Did he even consult with his Inuit constituents? Did he speak with the church? Has he done any research ? Another hair brained idea to without any consideration

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  6. Posted by Think before speaking? on

    Does this Mayor ever think before he speaks? Always a Hot head

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  7. Posted by Rebecca on

    I can’t speak for any other church, but I hope Mr. Bell knows that at the Anglican Church, the church is led by Inuit and most of the congregation is Inuit. The church is supported by donations from its members, so by taxing the church Mr. Bell is taxing Inuit. Also it is ridiculous to state that the churches add no value to the community. The churches are there for families and individuals throughout their lives, and does not charge for services such as weddings, funerals, baptisms, or counseling, even for non members or non Christians. This is black-and-white politics, and i hope the Christian Inuit in Iqaluit are heard at the meeting.

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  8. Posted by Huh? on

    A white man deciding what is going to help indigenous people . Smells kinda colonial to me. Mayor should spend more time actually engaging with the Inuit on solutions before firing off with his outlandish ideas . How will the pope sleep at night knowing the Mayor is going to single handedly bringing down the Catholic Church? Lol reality check?

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  9. Posted by pissed off on

    The mayor is always looking for the spectacular stuff, dosn`t he?

    Always the kneejerk reaction to evrything. Too bad some of the councilors are in the same boat which means a lot of turn around and flipflops on important issues.

    Not being a law scholar I don`t know if the City can do this however my understanding is that all over the world , churches are exempt from local taxes the same way they are exempt from income taxes.

    By the way not trying to defend the facts currently at hand !!

    Thanks

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  10. Posted by The Mayor needs to cool off on

    Mayor Bell has become the poster boy for some of the over the top divisive rhetoric that has emerged with the discovery of unmarked graves at residential schools. We all know that the purpose of residential schools was to destroy indigenous culture and way of life by wiping it away from indigenous children. That is cultural genocide. We also know that many children were physically and sexually abused at those schools and their lives were ruined as a result. We know that it is terrible to forcibly remove children from their parents. Finally, we know that those schools were built and operated so as to allow deadly diseases like TB to run rampant and that was terrible.
    So, everyone can agree that residential schools were appalling, terrible places that never should have existed.
    But, for people like Mayor Bell, that narrative is not nearly extreme enough. For him the narrative should be that the Church “killed thousands of children”. In other words, the Church was operating concentration camps that intentionally killed human beings. He’s used the term “kill”. It’s quoted in the above article.

    I won’t speak for others but, with respect, I find that rhetoric to be divisive, misleading and dangerous. We are now seeing churches being burned to the ground in Western Canada. We need to calm down and take a more balanced perspective on things.

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    • Posted by SJW army on

      As with everyone today, whether its a activist group, politician, or Hollywood star, using phrases that invoke emotional reactions is their forte. Whatever gets a reaction, whether good or bad; likes, views, or going viral. SWJ army is only here for the fight, they don’t care if any change happens, as long as they get people reacting. Arson, riots, toppling statues, and painting crosswalks gets the media into a frenzy.

      Kenny talks the talk but does he actually act on his opinions? There are gatherings planned tomorrow to honor the lives lost in residential schools, without a doubt Kenny will not be there to show his support. In fact, what has he done publicly to show he supports anything since he was elected?

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      • Posted by Heterodoxical on

        I think you’ve miscalculated the goals of the progressive / social justice movement a little. It’s not enough to say it is interested only in the fight, not change. It does want change; it wants to replace what it perceives to be the current power structures and hierarchies in our society with new one ones of its own design. If you have studied politics and history to any meaningful extent you will know what a precarious project that actually is and how unlikely it is to yield that kind of utopia even its most well meaning visioneers intend. It is already proving its illiberal and totalitarian impulses. Given its complete capture of our institutions of higher learning it seems to be building tremendous momentum. It is definitely concerning.

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    • Posted by Burned Churches on

      Who burned those churches, and why?
      .
      Was it protests against church activities?
      .
      Or was it done to hide the destruction of church records?

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  11. Posted by Just Think About It on

    Not all of the 751 bodies were children. Some came from the town and worked at the school. Also we need to remember the time span over which all this occurred, the health of the children at the time and the impracticality of getting decaying bodies back to their remote families. I do believe that some of those bodies died as a result of neglect and abuse in residential schools. However some of those bodies may have died due to illness and poor health. To say that the church killed every single one of those 751 is not accurate, and Mayor Bell should not be saying that when he does not know the full story. However, records would certainly help fill in the missing gaps of the story. Also remember that this is a graveyard without gravestones not a mass grave. Certainly bad things happened at residential schools but let us try and get the true picture. The churches in Iqaluit are forces of good in the community. It seems they are being punished now for the sins of grandparents and great grandparents. I feel that Mayor Bell’s penalties will do a lot more harm for the Iqaluit community than good. Please put aside your angry impulses and think logically and for the community. That is what great leaders must do.

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  12. Posted by Amused Atheist on

    I have to wonder, does the Mayor intend to tax the local Mosque too?

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  13. Posted by More populist tactics on

    Should churches be tax exempt? No, I dont think they should be.

    Is the mayor playing populist politics? Absolutely.

    I very much doubt he consulted with the city’s SAO or legal team to actually see if it’s feasible. This just another late night tweet that hit a bulleyes and got him his 15 minutes of fame that he craves.

    Also worth noting that the churches who ran the residential schools (Catholic and Anglican) are the mildest of the bunch. They ask for donations but in terms of harm, they’re pretty moderate these days. The churches in Nunavut that are doing real damage are going door to door, telling you Moderna is the devil, and welcoming televangelists on private jets to suck the church’s followers dry.

    The mayor is gambling on the current hate directed towards the Catholics. It’s going to fail but he’ll still pat himself on the back and tweet some emo passive aggressive crap about how being a public official is so so hard. Good job dividing the town even further over one of your half baked ideas that probably won’t even happen.

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    • Posted by SJW on

      If we are going to start taxing non for profits and charities by starting with churches then why stop there? Time to go after all the non for profits, Humane society, the homeless shelters, damp shelter, makerspace etc. Why single out religious groups only? Sounds pretty discriminatory for someone who claims to be working for “the people”. Mr. SJW get off your high horse.

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  14. Posted by Lights, camera, action on

    Get you cameras ready folks.Mayor Bell is taking a GRAND STAND against the church. Don’t forget to interviews. Mayor bell will be eagerly waiting.

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  15. Posted by Toasting marshmallows on smouldering priests. on

    Zero consultation with Iqaluit’s Inuit councillors, let alone Inuit worshippers.
    That’s all you need to know about this latest contemptible white saviour high on his own farts sewing division and intolerance for his fifteen minutes.
    Gross and cringeworthy.
    Council needs to kill this motion and focus on healing and the city business they were elected for.

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  16. Posted by To Rule Or Not on

    How can anybody think this is a good idea ?
    How can you paint all the churches in Iqaluit with the same brush ? Some of these churches have no affiliation to any of these past Atrocities, and unless you live under a rock. Its pretty obvious that most of the churches in Iqaluit provide way more than just a place to worship for its residence.
    I personally think that our Mayor has gone off the deep end again, and will try to influence and take as many councilors along with him.
    Our Mayor and a few City councilors need to take a deep hard look at them selves from within, and decide if they should continue on with their positions. Our residence do not want to live under a Dictator
    I am by no means trying to condone, or justify what has happened to our Indigenous communities and family members.
    I just don’t think our Mayor has our best interest at heart.

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    • Posted by boris pasternak on

      the only thing those kind of ppl {KB} understand is the little X use at least every four years…..I intend to use mine for a new guy/gal whoever that person is…

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  17. Posted by To Rule Or Not To Rule on

    How can anybody think this is a good idea ?
    How can you paint all the churches in Iqaluit with the same brush ? Some of these churches have no affiliation to any of these past Atrocities, and unless you live under a rock. Its pretty obvious that most of the churches in Iqaluit provide way more than just a place to worship for its residence.
    I personally think that our Mayor has gone off the deep end again, and will try to influence and take as many councilors along with him.
    Our Mayor and a few City councilors need to take a deep hard look at them selves from within, and decide if they should continue on with their positions. Our residence do not want to live under a Dictator, well at least I don’t.
    I am by no means trying to condone, or justify what has happened to our Indigenous communities and family members.
    I just don’t think our Mayor has our best interest at heart.

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  18. Posted by Seriously?? on

    The mayor is proving himself to be narrow-minded & bias. I quote, “Bell says the law should be reserved for groups that provide value to the city.” If he honestly believes this then he has failed to uphold his responsibilities as an elected official who is to remain impartial and represent all citizens equally. If he can honestly admit the churches of Iqaluit serve no useful purpose then it’s obvious he is totally out of touch with reality and ignorant of the facts.

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  19. Posted by Vacant houses on

    Meanwhile, dozens of vacant, boarded up houses, are all sitting all around town. Do those owners pay taxes? Why are they keeping these derelict buildings and not developing them or the land into livable houses and apartment buildings?

    Near ventures there are over half a dozen of these houses, duplex’s sitting vacant, while we have a housing crisis. Tax those owners extra, if they don’t pay taxes, auction them off. There are millions of dollars worth, in inhabitable houses, around town when there are year long waitlists for housing.

    Are the owners just holding out for the highest price?? Some of the same buildings have been empty for 10 years or longer. I don’t get it.

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    • Posted by marc denault on

      and all those shack at the river do you tax them to if a fire apen are you going to send fire truck wake up mayor

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  20. Posted by CB on

    Mayor Bell: Clearly you have never come to the Catholic Church for Sunday mass. If you had you would observe that most of the congregation are immigrants, first generation Canadians, visible minorities and members of the 2SGBLTTQI+ community. We are the Church and we did not kill anyone. Your ancestors colonised Canada, do not deflect your legacy of guilt. And if that is blaming, remember white men in glass houses cannot throw rocks.

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    • Posted by Catholic Church on

      The Vatican has billions of dollars in its coffers. They can cover the cost. It’s the least that they can do, seeing as they haven’t apologized. So typical of what that church has become, more interest in money than souls.

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      • Posted by Illia Kurijijakin on

        do you really think the cardinals are going to give up their 200k salary? Thats in North America standard…free rent, free food, perks beyond our little devoted minds gave 10% of net pay…..like a clock work. Most countries are in no position to fight the Vatican. Period. So what is the point? Europe is full of monasteries that hides old priests (sometimes young) who are the root of all this chaos. Jungle Asia is now becoming a favorite to stash offenders, warm, cheap and billion devoted followers. Just wild guesses.

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    • Posted by Pay your Taxes on

      So the church had nothing to do with colonialism? (sarcasm)

      Was it the color of their skin that made colonizers commit evil acts or the twisted ideology that made them believe they were somehow better (saved)?

      It’s baffling that you can complain about colonizers and defend the church in the same sentence.

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  21. Posted by The Old Trapper on

    I certainly agree that religious organizations should not be tax exempt as they are first and foremost a business, and this is aptly demonstrated by the Catholic Church which has over 1 million employees and is the largest landholder in the world outside of government.
    .
    The Catholic Church is also possibly the wealthiest organization in the world with assets of at least $30 billion (only a rough estimate and probably insanely low), so Rev. Perreault’s arguments that taxing churches hurts Iqalummiut is laughable.
    .
    Is Rev. Perreault’s diocese the only one that sends absolutely nothing to support the mother church in it’s own country of Vatican City? Yes the Catholic Church has their own country.
    .
    Here’s a little known fact. The Catholic Church in Canada was to make it’s best efforts to raise $25 million as a token payment as part of the residential schools settlement. It raised $3.7 million. The cost of the settlement was roughly $1.6 billion, the vast majority paid by Canadian taxpayers. Did the Catholic Church of Canada reach out to Vatican City for the rest? Take a guess.
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    Sounds just like a multinational corporation with a head office in a tax haven. Money flows just one way, and apparently that’s uphill. A MIRACLE!
    .
    The Catholic Church is a business, and not an honest one. It’s business is to accumulate wealth & power. Everything else is incidental. You don’t think that a priest has ever used information learned in confession to further the Catholic Church agenda?
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    I could cite example after example of the dishonesty and abuses found in religion after religion. The Catholic Church is one of the worst offenders but frankly none of the mainstream religions are to be believed in even their basic tenets.
    .
    It’s about time that governments stopped fawning over religious organizations. What is more absurd than an all seeing, all powerful, all encompassing “God” who either grants you everlasting life (in a state of bliss), or eternal torment? Yeah that sounds about right.
    .
    Just like a virgin birth rather than a young Jewish girl playing around before marriage, getting pregnant, and telling a little white lie about an angel.
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    Walking on water? Who in Iqaluit hasn’t walked on water? Frozen water, but that’s only a technicality.
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    It’s the 21st century, time to throw off our superstitions. FSM FTW!
    .
    Time to tax all churches. If you want to rebate them for the charitable work they do, then put a process in place where they provide details, with itemized costs.

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    • Posted by We get it. on

      We get it.
      You don’t like the church – in particular catholics.

      You can choose not to go to church but perhaps stay out of other people’s way of expressing their spirituality.

      We’ve been here before.

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      • Posted by Pay your Taxes on

        “stay out of other people’s way of expressing their spirituality”

        You need the church to be tax exempted to express your spirituality? Seems like a weak spiritual foundation.

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    • Posted by Nunavut Revolution on

      The French Revolution removed the “tax free” status of the nobility, also known as the “2nd estate”.
      .
      Now our mayor is going after the “1st estate”, the church.
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      Good luck to you. You are going to need it. They’ve had 2000 years of experience protecting their “tax free” status.

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      • Posted by Kenny’s Lament on

        Does anyone remember “The Man of La Mancha”? It was based upon the famous medieval Spanish story of Don Quixote by Miguel de Cervantes. Long story short, he was a tax collector who tried to tax the church and ended up facing the Spanish Inquisition. The play is famous for the song, “The Impossible Dream”.
        .
        Who will play the role of Sancho Panza – the guy who nailed the tax notice to the door of the church for Kenny, I mean Don Quixote?

  22. Posted by Out to lunch on

    Just another example of of how impulsive and totally out to lunch this mayor is. Did he talk to any Inuit? Does he go to church? They killed all these children and are not doing the community any good. Someone talk to this man and tell him to slow his roll. The mayor is more concerned about media attention then justice for indigenous peoples. Has this man done anything to show solidarity or support Inuit since being in office. He’s chastised and publicly shamed . Anything for his next 5 min of fame

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  23. Posted by Comms on

    City of Iqaluit hasen’t hired a comms person yet? It shows

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  24. Posted by Fair is Fair on

    The mayor should ensure the mosque, the shelters, the French community Centre and every single shack on the beach also pay taxes. The failure by the mayor to understand the benefit of a church in a community is hard to understand.

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  25. Posted by Kenn Harper on

    The Mayor of Iqaluit is trying to turn an Indigenous tragedy that did not affect his community directly into a crass tax grab. Shame! His claim that the Catholic church “killed thousands of children” is not a fact. Children died, and that’s tragic. But that doesn’t mean that someone killed them. His claim that the Catholic church has not done the community [of Iqaluit] any good is not founded in fact. I hope that councilors will not support his ill-conceived motion. Mayor Bell is an immature hot-head, grandstanding for his own political purposes in the face of an Indigenous tragedy. Shame on him.

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    • Posted by Humpty Dumpty on

      Damning words from our respected Historian, Kenny. I hope you can mount a compelling defense of yourself, and do it well, I have a feeling Mr. Harper might have a strong say on the final narrative.

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    • Posted by White Fragility on

      You’re missing the point. You are a colonizer, so I can understand your fragility. And your need for nit-picking.
      The Catholic Church here may have done some good(as a local, I’ve still to see any) for Iqaluit, but the Vatican owes big time!

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    • Posted by Spread the Word on

      Well Kenn, can you do something to get that word out, because here in another part of Canada those children are being portrayed as being victims of a deliberate murder campaign.

      This is being repeated more and more throughout the press. It is bad enough to see it on FaceBook in Nunavut, but ignorance on FaceBook is one thing, in the press another.

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  26. Posted by Tax Equally on

    As long as he also taxes the mosque, synagogue, the Church of the Flying Spaghetti Monster, and all of the others.

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  27. Posted by Long con on

    So does no one else see what could happen if the Mayor succeeds in taxing all these churches sitting on PRIME real estate?

    1. Force the churches to pay taxes
    2. Church closes and is forced to sell
    3. Developer friends swoop in and buy much sought after land.

    But yeah…the catholic and anglican churches of 2021 are the ones responsible of colonialism going on right now….not all those nice rich developers from out of territory who own all the property and bars in town. The developers will make sure the churches are turned into nice 4 storeys to house our future senior GN managers who are in desperate need.

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    • Posted by Northview REIT on

      Hurry up already so we can build another 4 storey square box that is structural unsound and needs to be completely re-done inside every 5 years due to mould, and drywall that crumbles that has only enough parking spaces for 25% of the tenants that we do not maintain in winter.

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    • Posted by Milkanovich on

      Ready with workers to build my next eyesore. I was thinking another sports bar, they roll in the $$$ good and promote community wellness.

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    • Posted by TNPG on

      I’m game, we could turn it into another shelter that we can rent out to the Uttuq society for another 10k a month. At least that building isn’t full of asbestos and technically condemed. Not that building inspectors care, ill just keep raking in the dough while living in the south and keep enjoying my Mexico winters. Baffin gas is my second biggest cash cow, and it is rotting wood that is crumbling, visibly. $$$

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  28. Posted by Nunavutmiuta on

    Good Idea, supposing there is a God, like they truly believe, he shell take care of them, but sadly enough he never took care of us First Nations.

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    • Posted by Zurreal on

      Why do so many Inuit think they are ‘First nations’? In reality you are no more related to first nations people than you are to western Europeans.

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  29. Posted by SourSoutherner on

    The problem with this assertion is that the Catholic Church doesn’t actually provide any services. Not really. It has a bunch of things at Kohl’s services, but they aren’t. They provide weddings? So does literally any open space, any wooded Glade or lakefront or tourist attraction or landmark. Even a decent sized restaurant. No church has any authority or power over who gets married, or where, or when. Marriage is a secular institution created long before religion existed. They don’t get to steal credit for it. Likewise, baptism doesn’t actually mean anything to society as a whole. It’s just a secret handshake between members of an exclusive club and it doesn’t really matter.

    The Catholic Church doesn’t actually provide any benefits to society, no church does. Even the things they can point to and call benefits like food banks or homeless shelters aren’t actually good things because they don’t do those for the sake of doing them. They do those as an ad campaign to try to spread their poisonous propaganda and product. It’s just a money laundering scheme. So I don’t see any reason for them to not pay their taxes. It’s about time they actually contributed something of worth to society, instead of being dead weight parasites.

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    • Posted by Nah on

      The intention of the church in the provision of services to people such as the homeless means nothing to the folks that they are providing the services too. Because the church is hoping to attract members through it provision of services to the community, the services they provide are null and void? Ask those that they are serving big they feel the same. What kind of logic is that? Name one person and /or organization that does not have a personal interest in being generous?

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  30. Posted by John Testor on

    Yes, all churches should be taxed, except for those things that truly charitable, such as feeding poor.

    They expect police, fire, and infrastructure support but don’t pay for any of it. Why should religions need to be supported by all taxpayers, those of different religions and those of none at all?

    Tax churches. There is no excuse. Use the money to implement the TRC 94 points at first.

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