I needed help, and now I’m helping others
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.” Erick was puzzled. That was when he was introduced to Henry. It so happened that Henry and Erick were the shortest kids in the class, so they naturally got paired up. It also helped that Henry spoke Cantonese! Henry reassured Erick and said “Don’t worry, I’m here to help.” Unbeknownst to Henry, he became Erick’s first friend. He helped Erick navigate the first day, the first week, the first month, and the first year of school in Canada. “He went out of his way to help me,” Erick says, “to make sure I understood what the task was and to play with me at recess, the utmost important part for my social life! I’m not sure he knows the impact he had on a young me.”
Fast forward 20-plus years, Erick is working for the Canada Revenue Agency as an Income Tax Auditor. During a recent tax season, Erick was asked to participate in a TV interview in Cantonese as a Subject Matter Expert to answer questions for people who were about to submit their tax returns. Interview about taxes? In Cantonese? Erick thought back to the time Henry helped him navigate the complex world of elementary school. “Many newcomers come from a very different tax system,” Erick says, “and they are accustomed to more traditional media, such as TV news programs, as a place to get information. I realized this was an opportunity for me to help people who speak Cantonese, like Henry helped me, by talking about the good things we do at the CRA!”
So, with his hair brushed, tie on straight, and the help of the Regional Communications team, Erick did his first TV interview, and many more afterwards. The interview focused on the importance of filing your income tax return on time, the benefits you could be entitled to, such as the GST/HST credit and the Canada Child Benefit. Also, it was a chance to talk about the resources available, such as the Community Volunteer Income Tax Program (CVITP). During the interviews, Erick talks about the risk of late filing or not filing your taxes, as well as how to identify fraud and scam calls.
To no one’s surprise, Erick people called him to ask more questions. “No worries, I can help you with that!” he said over the phone. In instances where the tax situation was simple, he was able to provide a little bit more information and find a CVITP clinic nearby to help them get their tax returns done. “The CRA’s role is not only to administer taxes but also to educate and help the public. It’s a wonderful feeling to know I have lived up to the CRA’s approach of putting people first by helping those in my community.”
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