Katherine Dubois

From Tourism to Taxes: Kathy Dubois Finds New Opportunity In the Public Service

“Follow your dream. Follow your heart. You can do anything you want to put your mind to so never let anyone stop you from your goals. You’ve got this and just keep going,” says Kathy Dubois, hoping to inspire Indigenous youth. She lives in Winnipeg but grew up in St. Malo, 45 minutes south of the city until she was 19. Dubois moved to the city to go to school and to find opportunities. She’s been there for 14 years and now works for Canada Revenue Agency. For the past few years she’s been assessing tax returns, but she’s starting a new job working on Taxpayer Relief requests.

She heard about the opportunity to work for the government from her roommate when she was working as a travel agent. Her roommate encouraged her to apply, knowing she would be a sought-after candidate as a bilingual Indigenous woman. She decided to go for it and after extensive testing, she got the job in 2019, eventually becoming permanent.

Her new role came about when she applied for it, completed a questionnaire and was offered the job. “There's lots of opportunity within the agency,” she smiles, anticipating her start in a higher-level position and the chance to try out something new. If it’s not something she enjoys, she can always go back to her home department.

While some people think you need to be an accountant to work for the CRA, there are opportunities and roles for people who have only completed high school. Dubois loves how much opportunity there is across the country, how diverse the roles are and how nice the people she works with are. Her previous job as a travel agent had lots of opportunities to travel, but the salary wasn’t meeting her needs in the way her new employer does.

During her time as a travel agent, she got to see animals in their natural habitats in Costa Rica, from sloths in trees, to monkeys and armadillos. On one night walk with a tour guide, she saw an animal like a leopard, a rare sight just a few feet away from her. The animal looked at them and crept away slowly. She ended up in that role after completing a year of schooling which included testing to be able to sell travel and use the required systems. A lot of the lessons were in sales, something she didn’t enjoy. Dubois doesn’t like being pushy and struggled to meet sales quotas.

Illustration by Shaikara David

In high school, she had a hard time focusing but she loved being with her friends. She passed her classes but a teacher suggested she try more hands-on work given her challenges with concentration. She tried welding, auto body, and power mechanics in grades ten through twelve. Dubois took the minimum requirements in terms of course and went back to upgrade later to increase her access to opportunities. Her educational path was winding, and it took her somewhere she didn’t expect, from tourism to taxes.

Outside of work, Dubois likes to clear her mind by going for walks with her adopted rescue dog who loves going for strolls. She loves to be outside, doing sports and skating but also loves art, painting, and embroidery. Dubois enjoys going to the movies, listening to music, attending concerts, cooking, and trying to get good at baking. 

As an adoptee who was part of the sixties scoop, Dubois has been learning about her culture and getting back to her roots. She wants to learn about her history and her family and spend time reconnecting. At work, she was able to participate in an Indigenous mentoring program.

“One of my goals was to learn about the seven grandfather teachings and how I can bring it into the workplace,” she recalls, sharing about the teachings she received through mentorship.  She was able to take those teachings and apply them to another goal: becoming a better public speaker by sharing a presentation about what she learned.

She felt it was a skill that would help her advance at work but it was something she was anxious about. “So nervous, and then half the time you don't even remember what you said. You're like, ‘Was that a dream? Did I get through that?’” she laughs.

When being a travel agent wasn’t paying the bills, she moved on to assessing tax bills and found new opportunities to learn and grow. Overcoming public speaking and reconnecting with her culture gave Kathy Dubois wisdom to share with youth. She hopes they will follow their dreams, follow their hearts, know that they can do anything they want to put their minds to and most of all, never let anyone stop them from their goals. She hopes they know that they’ve got this and just keep going, just like she did, all the way to the Canada Revenue Agency.

Thanks to Alison Tedford Seaweed for authoring this article.

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