150 Profiles: Patrick Johnston

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: Patrick Johnston

Profession (current role in the sector): Philanthropic consultant and volunteer board director 

Years working and/or volunteering in the non-profit sector:

40+ years working in the sector

50+ years volunteering

Can you describe a defining moment in your career working/volunteering in the non-profit sector?

I served as Executive Director of the Richmond Youth Service Agency in British Columbia from 1976–1978. During that time, the Minister of Human Resources, Bill Vander Zalm, disqualified everyone under the age of 18 from receiving social assistance. With a stroke of the pen, he undid much of the good work we had accomplished. Without the meagre income they had been receiving, many of the young people with whom we had been working successfully drifted away. Some ended up involved in dealing drugs or sex work. It was a painful lesson of how quickly the actions of governments can undermine the best efforts of charities and non-profits. It also reinforced for me the belief that unless charities engage in the public policy process, as and when required, they will not adequately be fulfilling their missions.

Describe your desk/workspace.

I work from my home office in a modern log house in rural, eastern Ontario. I use a tablet, laptop and desktop at a large, well-worn, ink-stained mahogany table circa 1870 – a nice blend of new and old.

What are you reading or following that has expanded your understanding of the non-profit sector?

Far too many to cite but my Twitter feed, and the carefully prepared list of people I follow, is my best and primary source of information.

For you as a past author with the journal, please share with us your reflections, reaction, thoughts about what has changed and/or stayed the same since writing the following article:

My November 2015 article Charities, Public Policy and Advocacy – Take #2 was a not-very-subtle reminder–both to the newly installed federal government and the sector–that the issue of charities and advocacy is not a new one. I’ll look forward to reading the report of the panel established by CRA to consult and provide input on clarifying the rules for charities engaging in political activity. But, I’ll be even more interested in how the Trudeau government will respond and whether they will finally resolve a long-standing irritant for the sector.

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



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