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Alumni Feature: Jess Dutton

In 2023, Jess Dutton was appointed as the Ambassador to the Republic of Indonesia; in 1995, he was an OLIP intern. After earning an Honours BA in Political Studies and MA in Public Administration at Queen’s University, Jess was an OLIP intern in 1995-1996. After OLIP, he made the jump to federal politics and worked for Sheila Copps, then Minister of Canadian Heritage at the time under the Chrétien government. After eventually becoming chief of staff, in 2003, Jess transitioned to the federal public service in 2005 with Foreign Affairs Canada. Then began his diplomatic career!  

His first posting was as a political Counsellor in Seoul, South Korea, where he was able to visit North Korea six times. In Kandahar, Afghanistan, he was the director of the Kandahar Provincial Reconstruction Team responsible for the reconstruction and development in the province. In 2010, he was appointed as the Deputy Ambassador to Kabul, Afghanistan and in 2011 became the Deputy Head of the Stabilization and Reconstruction Task Force in Ottawa, running programming in around a dozen fragile states. There, he had the opportunity to travel to Sudan, Jordan, Guatemala, the West Bank, and more to work on security reform and peace building. In 2014, he became the Deputy High Commissioner in Delhi, India, which is Canada’s largest mission in the world in terms of the number of personnel and offices. During that time, he was also responsible for both Nepal and Bhutan, and particularly remembers being in Kathmandu for the second earthquake in 2015. From 2017 to 2020, Jess was Canada’s Ambassador to Egypt. It was rewarding for him to evacuate over 800 Canadians in partnership with the Government of Egypt during the initial COVID-19 outbreak. Before his most recent appointment as the Ambassador to the Republic of Indonesia, Jess worked as the Director General of the Middle East, where he renewed Canada’s Middle East strategy, and helped normalize Canada’s relationship with Saudi Arabia. 

In 1995, Jess was an OLIP intern during the Mike Harris Common Sense Revolution government. He particularly remembers on his first day a massive protest outside Queen’s Park. His government placement was with MPP Doug Galt who was then the Parliamentary Assistant to the Minister of the Environment. For his opposition placement, he worked for MPP Elinor Caplan, the former Minister of Health and later federal Minister of Immigration and Revenue. It was during his time with MPP Caplan that got him excited about politics and led him to making the jump as a federal political staffer. While Jess always had an interest in politics and public service, he attributes his OLIP year to solidifying his decision to pursue working in government and politics. OLIP helped him understand not only how decisions are made, but also how best to engage with ministerial offices. 

To recent OLIP alumni, Jess recommends keeping an open mind because you will never know where your career will take you. Take the time to build and then maintain your network. Most importantly, he says to find a balance in your professional life while keeping an eye on the bigger picture: your family and your mental health. 

Jess reads every issue of the Economist and highly recommends it to anyone interested in global affairs. He attributes the Economist, which he’s read since his undergrad days, to inspiring him to pursue diplomacy. 

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