Putting people first at the Canada Revenue Agency

People First Story

Having just arrived in Canada and not speaking a lick of English, Erick Cheong’s first day at school was very memorable. Erick, with a wrinkled tee-shirt and messy hair, was dropped off outside portable 11 at 8:30 and handed over to Ms. Selin. She put her hand on his shoulder, smiled and said something that to Erick sounded like “blah blah blah.”

For the past 20 plus years, Parmjit has spent her weekends during income tax filing season, sitting in a boardroom-style office on the top floor of a Sikh gurdwara, or temple, ensuring that her community’s most vulnerable people receive the tax benefits they are entitled too.

It’s not a mistake to call Christine's career in the Canada Revenue Agency’s (CRA’s) Charities Directorate a labour of “love.” Back in 2000, when she started working for the Charities Directorate, Christine was sure of one thing: she wanted to make a difference.

While extreme measures were necessary to keep Canadians safe during the COVID-19 pandemic, there is no denying that the lockdowns haven’t been easy. Particularly hurting were businesses, big and small, who saw their clientele disappear. Gary Graves, a project manager for the Canada Revenue Agency (CRA) who worked on several COVID-related emergency subsidies, knew that government initiatives to keep businesses afloat could be the deciding factor between a business staying open or collapsing.

Lisa Belmore was wrapping up a job at Health Canada and preparing for a new role at the Canada Revenue Agency (CRA) on Friday, March 13, 2020. As she packed up her desk, she heard rumours that businesses were shutting down. She called her new manager at the CRA who told her not to worry – her job would start, as planned, and they would “figure it out”. 

Jennifer Clark works with the Consultations and Stakeholder Engagement (CSE) team at the Canada Revenue Agency. When the world shut down because of Covid-19, Canadian businesses, charities, and non-profits needed new and complicated information, urgently, and the CSE team rose to that challenge. 

Before Covid-19, Brenda Arsenault worked with the Business Number Operations team at the Canada Revenue Agency (CRA), handling complicated questions that arise from calls/written requests about everything business number related. When the pandemic hit, her team priorities shifted to assist with questions related to the Canada Emergency Wage Subsidy (CEWS). CEWS is a benefit launched in April  2020 to pay a portion of employee wages directly to employers who apply and qualify for it.

In 2019, Lionel Holm accepted an assignment to the Northern Service Centre in Yellowknife, Northwest Territories. He helped with the opening of the centre. From the start, Lionel has been focused on making the Liaison Officer Program more available for northern Canadians. 

We will remember the COVID-19 pandemic as a time of great change. The word "pivot" became known as more than a basketball move where you plant one foot and rotate your body around it as you look for the perfect pass. Barmak is an outreach officer for the Canada Revenue Agency who works in Montreal's regional Tax Services Office, and he knows all about the power of a good pivot.

Across Canada and throughout the year, organizations host free tax clinics through the Community Volunteer Income Tax Program, where trained volunteers prepare taxes for eligible individuals. Melissa Valencia is a program officer in the Community Outreach and Support Division at the Canada Revenue Agency, which offers guidance and support to the program, to ensure it is in tune with the needs of the organizations, volunteers, and clients it serves. In the simplest of terms, Melissa spends the better part of her day doing whatever she can to make tax-filing easier for people. She believes that a sensitive and kind approach allows her to learn from program participants and advocate on their behalf.

Yash knew that Microsoft Teams instant messaging and captioned video calls would be a game changer for the way people communicated within the workplace, formally and informally. As an employee with a hearing impairment at the Canada Revenue Agency, Yash understood how the Microsoft Teams chat platform would make his everyday work so much easier.

In March, the COVID-19 pandemic suddenly changed how the Canada Revenue Agency (CRA) and its employees had to operate. Many shifted to working virtually and had to rely on online collaboration. John began working remotely seven years ago, so he knew what the CRA workforce would be facing. John is a technical program manager for the CRA’s Information Technology Branch (ITB) and has been a leader in the development of the CRA’s online work environment implementation of Microsoft Teams.

Last December, the Finance and Administration (FAB) Branch launched the Service Enhancement project in support of the Canada Revenue Agency’s (CRA’s) service transformation agenda and People First philosophy. Paula, a team member on the project, knows that in order to provide better tax services to Canadians, internal services such as FAB, must embrace the People First philosophy and place their internal clients at the centre of everything they do.  

There is never a dull moment in my work as a Senior Public Consultations and Stakeholder Engagement Advisor at the Public Affairs Branch (PAB) at the Canada Revenue Agency (CRA)! I help the Agency put people first by planning, designing, and implementing public consultations that help us interact with Canadians from various walks of life, as well as those who interact with the Agency on their behalf. It's my job to help internal partners think about the best time, place, and way to reach Canadians' in a meaningful way, and keep their voices at the centre of everything we do.

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