In memoriam: Senator Ian Shugart, P.C.
Senator Ian Shugart, P.C., embodied the virtues of public service and left a lasting legacy in the people he inspired throughout a life and career of great achievement.
“I was not the only one mentored and shaped by Ian Shugart,” Senator Peter Boehm told colleagues during an emotional sitting of the Senate on Thursday, November 2, 2023.
“There has been a tremendous outpouring of gratitude from many — not just in the public service but across the country — whose lives and careers he touched in his gentle, helpful way.
Senator Shugart was the 24th Clerk of the Privy Council — Canada’s top public servant — before his appointment to the Senate in September 2022. He was clerk when the COVID-19 pandemic struck and helped ensure the delivery of vital services to Canadians. He died in Ottawa on Wednesday, October 25, 2023, after a lengthy illness.
As Senator Shugart’s wife and three children looked on from the public gallery, the Government Representative in the Senate, the Leader of the Opposition and leadership of the Senate’s recognized groups all paid tribute to the man who “never wavered” in his commitment to Canada.
“During the very last two conversations we had together, he was throwing out ideas for a speech to be delivered in the chamber — by him if he were physically able to be here, or by someone else if he were not,” Senator Marc Gold said.
“Even in his last weeks, as he was fighting his final battle, he was contemplating how to best express his continued devotion to Canada and to service.”
Senator Don Plett called him a man of “immense wisdom and significant experience.”
“The words were never truer: He left us too soon. Too soon because he was loved as a husband, a father, a family member and a friend. Too soon because he was a man of integrity with a depth of experience and knowledge, and yet a man of great humility. Too soon because he was a man with immense wisdom and significant experience that would have enriched our discussions and deliberations in this chamber.”
Senator Scott Tannas remembered his “wise counsel and keen insight” during their rich and thoughtful conversations.
“How extraordinary he was to bravely and relentlessly continue to pursue his service to Canada as long as he possibly could. When I think of public service and duty, I will always think of Ian.”
Senator Jane Cordy called it a “tremendous shame” that he did not get the chance to participate more fully in the Senate’s work — “a loss we will certainly all feel deeply.”
“As a man who truly embodied what it means to be a public servant, the outpouring of tributes to him in the past week have had a definite theme, highlighting his devotion to service, his wit and wisdom and certainly his kindness and grace,” she said.
A message from Senate Speaker Raymonde Gagné
It is with immense sadness that I inform you that the Honourable Ian Shugart, P.C. has passed away.
Following a distinguished career in the public service spanning over 40 years, Senator Shugart was appointed to the Senate, representing the province of Ontario, on September 26, 2022.
Prior to his appointment to the Senate, Senator Shugart notably held the position of Deputy Minister for Environment and Climate Change Canada, Employment and Social Development Canada, and Foreign Affairs. In 2019, he was appointed the 24th Clerk of the Privy Council and Secretary to the Cabinet, heading the Public Service and serving as the principal link between the Prime Minister and the public service of Canada.
Accustomed to working behind the scenes, Senator Shugart used his maiden speech in the Senate to highlight the great challenges Canada faces — and to provide some very public advice on how the country can do better.
“We need to relearn the virtue of restraint,” he said. “Canada is a big diverse country — geographically, socially, culturally, economically and philosophically. For each of us, restraint may begin with acknowledging that our point of view — legitimate as it is — is not the only point of view.
“We have benefited from restraint in this country, and, in these times, we need it again.”
The standing ovation that followed could hardly be called restrained. But as his colleagues quoted his words in their tributes to him, it was clear that his contributions to the Senate — and to Canada — will endure.