Lily Mah-Sen

Written by Sebastian Sadja

January 4, 2022

Lily Mah-Sen


My background: My family ran the Chinese restaurant in Brooks, Alta.  As the only Asian child in town, I often wished I was white.  My Mom referred to me as “bamboo”: yellow on the outside, hollow inside. Our Canadian roots date back to 1880, when my uncle arrived as an indentured railway worker. He died working in the coal mines in Cumberland. 

My father, after paying a head tax of $500, arrived in 1911. My Mom in 1950 after the Chinese Exclusion Act was lifted.  We spent summers searching the Chinese cemeteries for my uncle’s grave, to no avail.   Many graves were marked as “Chinaman” or “unknown”.  After graduation (U of A), I taught school in Papua New Guinea.  I worked for CUSO for 18 years: Regional Coordinator in Alta; Development Educator, Board Services Officer, and Policy Analyst in Ottawa and for Amnesty International Canada for 19 years. Before retiring, I was the National Activism Coordinator for Amnesty Canada. 

My skills include advocacy at federal, provincial, and municipal levels; facilitation and adult education, including workshops on sustainability in Thailand, Zimbabwe, and Botswana; and a recent 5-session Lifelong Learning Course for Seniors on Green Energy. I’ve helped boards function better (diversity training for Amnesty’s international board of directors; conflict resolution with the Ten Days Board in Alberta). I have a Master’s Degree in Management for Non-Profit Organizations from McGill. 



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