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.
Assistant Deputy Attorney General, Victims and Vulnerable Persons Division, Government of Ontario
Bachelor of Arts, Law (’88)
Early in her career, Juanita Dobson was a frontline worker with Ontario’s Office of the Public Guardian and Trustee, helping people who were unable to look after their own finances, whether it was managing their funds for food and shelter, or applying for income benefits.
Almost 25 years later, Ms. Dobson oversees the office she once worked for, and supports their role in protecting the rights and interests of mentally incapable adult clients —often seniors with dementia or people with mental illness—who have nowhere else to turn.
“The Public Guardian and Trustee is the last resort to provide protection and support for people who have no one authorized to do so,” she says. “The office helps stabilize their situation, makes decisions and conducts transactions that these individuals would otherwise handle themselves.”
As the Assistant Deputy Attorney General in the Victims and Vulnerable Persons Division, Ms. Dobson not only oversees the Public Guardian and Trustee’s office, but also the Office of the Children’s Lawyer, Ontario Victim’s Services and the Supervised Access Program.
She got her start volunteering as a patient representative, advocating for patients with mental illness and working at an emergency men’s shelter.
“I was always interested in social justice and social policy, which was part of my upbringing,” she explains. “My parents both worked and volunteered in social service and youth activity organizations and were very involved in the community.”
While she hadn’t settled on a career path, she says her experience in the Department of Law and Legal Studies was transformative.
“It was an exciting time. The Charter of Rights and Freedoms was fairly new and the professors were quite excited, wondering how things would change,” she recalls. “I really enjoyed those courses.”
Ms. Dobson says they provided her with a strong foundation in the law, while her first internship—as a policy analyst in the Ministry of Labour—introduced her to the public service.
“I learned my way around policy development and program delivery, which gave me a good grounding for the work I do now.”
Like so many public servants, Ms. Dobson worked in several ministries over the course of her career, building connections with her colleagues within each one. She believes collaboration is the cornerstone of the public service.
“You can’t do anything alone in these jobs. I rely so much on the connections I built over the years. We support each other. Whenever I have a question, I just give them a call,” she says.
One of her proudest achievements was her recent work with the Ontario Women’s Directorate, which launched the “It’s Never Okay” ad campaign as part of Ontario’s Sexual Violence and Harassment Action Plan. The ads, which encouraged bystanders to safely intervene if they saw harassment or violence of any kind, were downloaded around the world and encouraged viewers to continue the conversation on social media with the hashtag #whowillyouhelp.
As for her advice for new graduates, Ms. Dobson shares the guidance she received upon entering the public service.
“Don’t chase the job title. Go for the work that interests you, be flexible, make a contribution and the job title will come.”
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