This profile was part of the Faculty of Public Affairs’ 75 for the 75th series, which highlighted 75 notable alumni in FPA in honour of Carleton University’s 75th anniversary. These stories were published in 2016 and 2017.
Principal, Jaimac Risk Management
Bachelor of Arts, Law (’88)
John Peters spent 20 years working as a lawyer at Export Development Canada (EDC), a federal Crown corporation that supports Canadian exporters by providing financing and insurance solutions.
But if you had asked him about his future plans in high school, he “absolutely never” would have predicted this path.
“I was a science geek,” says Mr. Peters with a laugh. “I applied for a chemistry degree at Carleton and the University of Ottawa and had no interest in a Bachelor of Arts.” But after he was accepted into the chemistry programs at both universities, Mr. Peters made a surprising decision—to take the courses he was least interested in.
“I thought, ‘University is about expanding your mind.’ So, I enrolled in the Arts program at Carleton and began taking all of the courses I was the worst at: English, political science, law, sociology and psychology. That opened my mind to different perspectives, such as social justice and democracy.”
Mr. Peters gravitated towards psychology, sociology and law—the pillars of criminology before Carleton established the Institute of Criminology and Criminal Justice—and ended up pursuing a concentration in criminology as part of his law degree. His 4th year Honours thesis was a critical examination of the Ontario Legal Aid Plan, focused on the limited access to justice.
“I loved Carleton because the faculty were very open to giving students an opportunity and they were very non-judgmental,” he recalls. “Carleton and dedicated professors, like Ron Saunders, laid the foundation for who I am today.”
Mr. Peters went on to attend law school at the University of Windsor before taking a job with a private law firm.
“I was effectively a Marxist at Carleton. I saw myself hanging a shingle or working for a small firm and fighting the good fight. Back then I would have thought I was selling out if I worked for a financial institution,” he recalls.
But then he received a call from a friend at EDC, who explained the Crown corporation’s mission to help Canadian companies “go and grow” internationally.
“I loved every minute I was at EDC. EDC is filled with hard-working, very smart, well-meaning people,” he says. “It was a pleasure being EDC’s lawyer as they were always trying to do the right thing.”
He now works for Jaimac Risk Management, a boutique brokerage firm, which also helps Canadian companies go and grow — both internationally and here in Canada.
At the same time he was building his legal career, Mr. Peters was contributing to the growth of Shepherds of Good Hope, a not-for-profit organization dedicated to the needs of the homeless and impoverished in the city of Ottawa.
He first joined the board of directors in 1993 because they needed a lawyer. At that time, Shepherds was a soup kitchen, a shelter and provided some limited supportive housing. Today, Shepherds serves over 1,600 people a day, including the 500 people who sleep in one of Shepherds’ eight facilities across the city every night.
It was only supposed to be a three-year volunteer appointment, but Mr. Peters has never left. In 2006, he received the Gordon F. Henderson Award from the Carleton County Law Association for his volunteer work.
“My work with the Shepherds keeps me grounded because I realize this could happen to anyone,” he says. “These aren’t lazy people; they are mostly people who had something go terribly wrong in their lives. We are all just one tragedy away from being homeless. I’m humbled by that fact and the optimistic hope that permeates Shepherds.”
Mr. Peters says it’s unlikely he would have had these experiences if he had pursued that chemistry degree.
“Every time I’ve made a leap of faith, I’ve been pleasantly surprised,” he says. “I recommend people get involved with things that make them uncomfortable at first because it pays off. That’s how you move forward and learn. It makes life so much better.”
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