150 Profiles: Margaret Mason

As we mark the 150th anniversary of confederation, The Philanthropist is profiling Canadians from across the non-profit sector and putting a face to 150 individuals who work or volunteer in Canada’s social sector.

Name: Margaret Mason

Current role in the sector: Lawyer, partner with Norton Rose Fulbright Canada LLP

Years working and/or volunteering in the non-profit sector:  Give or take 40 years!

Margaret Mason profile picture

What was your first job in the sector or a defining moment?
Just after I turned 18, I participated in Katimavik (yes, I was a teenage Katima-victim!). It opened my eyes, wide—I was a small town, bookish, basketball playing nerd and it was the first time I was on a plane (and got stuck in Toronto during an air traffic controller strike), my first time away from home without my parents or on a chaperoned school trip, my first time with much older kids/adults who were dramatically more sophisticated than me—and probably the first inkling of what it meant to be a Canadian. Katimavik (at the time) meant living in three different communities in Canada for three months each (one of which was a Francophone community) and volunteering in those communities (for $1 a day). Although I had volunteered in Victoria where I grew up, this was a whole different magnitude and the people we were working with had very different life experiences than me.

Describe your desk/workspace.
Pretty tidy—I’m jacked into two screens and I try to have only the matter I am dealing with on my desk.  When I left for a four month sabbatical in 2014 I vowed to myself that when I returned I would reduce stress by keeping my desk and office clear – and I’ve managed to keep it up (and it works!).

What are you reading or following that has expanded your understanding of the non-profit sector?
Currently I’ve assigned myself the task of working through the Truth and Reconciliation Committee’s Final Report.  I’ve also got Kathryn Chan’s The Public-Private Nature of Charity Law on the go.  I’ve been travelling a good deal to developing nations in the last few years and find that in my recreational reading I am immersed in non-fiction and novels from writers from the nations I have been visiting—just finished Vivek Shanbhag’s Ghachar Ghochar—chilling—and it helps me to some small degree understand the issues in those nations.

What do you think our sector needs to be thinking about?
As a lawyer serving the sector, what matters to me is to try to help those working in the sector as efficiently as I can and to educate those working in the sector on the legal underpinnings, so that they can better solve problems themselves. At this point in my career I’m pretty focused as well on trying to “raise” the next generation of lawyers who understand the sector.

Do you know someone we should profile as part of this series? Email us at philanthropistprofiles@gmail.com

Margaret Mason is a partner with Norton Rose Fulbright Canada LLP. Mason's practice focuses on advising charities and non-profit organizations.

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