“What the Mount does is transformational for people”

For Prof. Normand Gendron, the growing crisis of insufficient resources to meet rising demand for services in Canada’s non-profit sector is an urgent call to action – and it’s inspiring his efforts to grow a culture of caring and volunteerism among his students.

“A good deed machine”
Prof. Normand Gendron“Normand is like a good deed machine,” says Dr. Peter Mombourquette, Professor and Chair of the Department of Business and Tourism at MSVU, which Normand joined in 2022 as an Assistant Professor. “He invests considerable time in his students and his projects, and is deeply committed to the growth of the Non-Profit Leadership Program.”

Normand’s passion for the charitable sector is grounded in the close to 25 years he spent as a non-profit leader, working with organizations focusing on areas including environment, early childhood education, arts & culture, community, health, and regulatory services. He brings his deep experience to another role he now holds at the university as the newly appointed coordinator of MSVU’s Non-Profit Leadership Program. He’s planning to use the position to drive greater support for local charities by changing the curriculum of the program to connect it more closely to their needs.

“I have a strategy to try to help the charitable sector. It’s in real trouble,” says Normand of a five-part plan he’s created with a focus on increasing volunteerism among MSVU students. “Statistics that came out in November of 2022 from Stats Canada say that two-thirds of non-profits are having trouble getting volunteers, and more data just released by Imagine Canada say they’re having challenges with donations now.”

Finding meaning in taxation
One way Normand is already engaging MSVU students in serving the community is through the volunteer tax clinic he’s set up on campus in collaboration with the university’s International Education Centre, which provides space and technology for the initiative.

The clinic is part of the Community Volunteer Income Tax Program – a 52-year-old outreach effort led by the Canada Revenue Agency (CRA). This tax season, 23 students and two alumni are volunteering with the tax clinic. Since March 5, they have filed 112 tax returns for fellow MSVU students and assisted in filing additional forms needed to access basic tax credits (e.g. the Canada Child Benefit, HST, Affordable Living, and Canada Carbon Rebate). In response to a request for assistance, seven of MSVU’s volunteers are also working in the tax clinic hosted by the Immigrant Services Association of Nova Scotia (or ISANS).

The clinic at the MSVU International Education Centre continues until April 28. Students can book an in-person or online appointment here.

“I started the tax clinic to try to help my tax and accounting students find meaning in taxation. The students who volunteer get a great deal of benefit from it,” says Normand. “There are some great impact stories. For example, one student was helping another file their return, and the student who was filing was a single mother using a food bank for her kids. She learned about the Canada Child Benefit as a result of the program and received a life-changing amount of about $13,000 tax-free. The volunteer called me in tears because they were just so affected by it.”

Normand has also set up a CPA registered and insured private tax practice to assist students who may have complex tax situations that cannot be assisted through the Canada Revenue Agency program. This clinic is able to provide support to student who are self-employed. He provides these services free of charge.

Making tax information more accessible
The impact of the volunteer tax clinic has continued to grow thanks to a further effort Normand is leading with the goal of expanding understanding of tax credits and benefits. After sharing the story of the clinic at a recent experiential learning conference, Normand was invited to apply for funding from Co-operative Education and Work-Integrated Learning Canada (CEWIL). Thanks to a CEWIL grant of approximately $16,000, Normand and the students in his Advanced Tax course have been working with the Brunswick Street Mission, the MSVU International Education Centre, and the Canada Revenue Agency to create simplified and accessible versions of taxation information, such as brochures with QR codes.

“We now have easy-to-understand documents that we can hand out to people telling them how benefits and tax credits work, and the tax clinic volunteers have some additional tools to help their clients understand what the process is and what they can expect,” says Normand. “Now they’re a little more empowered and less scared in many cases.”

Deep connections to MSVU
MSVU has played a prominent part in Normand’s life for many years now. He first came to the university in 2006 as a Bachelor of Business Administration student, completing the degree in 2011 and earning the Governor General’s Academic Medal in recognition of his scholastic achievements. He is currently completing his Master of Education in Lifelong Learning at MSVU, with his thesis focusing on applying ethical frameworks in communities of practice. He anticipates graduating with that degree in October 2024, and next intends to pursue a PhD.

Prior to becoming an MSVU faculty member, Normand was a part-time sessional instructor in accounting, finance, and management at the university for eight years – fulfilling this role while also working full-time and studying part-time. He is also a Chartered Professional Accountant and has an MBA.

“Coming to the Mount really had a big impact on me. The profs that I had, the friendships that I made, and the community at the Mount were wonderful. I learned an enormous amount. And not just the technical stuff, but also a lot about society at large and what role we have in terms of civic responsibility,” says Normand. “What the Mount does is transformational for people. It makes a really big difference and it’s a very caring environment. Teaching at the Mount is very fulfilling because I get a strong sense that I’m actually helping students in their career path and in life development.”