Tribute to Ian Shugart delivered by Senator Boehm on November 2, 2023

Honourable colleagues, it is with a heavy heart that I rise today on behalf of the Independent Senators Group to pay tribute to our late colleague, the Honourable Ian Shugart, who left us far too soon.

Ian was many things: an excellent colleague, a scholar, a leader, an intellectual, a patriot. To me he was also a mentor, a role model, and a friend. 

I first met Ian about 20 years ago when he was an Assistant Deputy Minister at Health Canada, and I was transitioning from my assignment at our embassy in Washington to an ADM job here at what was then the Department of Foreign Affairs and International Trade. 

At the time, Ian had successfully managed policies regarding Sudden Acute Respiratory Syndrome – aka SARS – and I attended a few interdepartmental meetings on the subject. 

I was struck by the calm, highly intelligent interventions he made on ways forward once others had expressed their views. 

I remember him saying that Canada had to develop standard operating procedures to prepare for the next mass health scare or even a pandemic. How very prescient.

I left for my assignment in Germany a few years later and, unsurprisingly, Ian moved upward to Associate Deputy Minister and then Deputy Minister at Environment Canada. 

By the time I returned to Ottawa in 2012, Ian was Deputy Minister of Employment and Social Development Canada and I was what, in bureaucratic slang, was referred to as a “Baby DM.” 

I felt I needed a mentor who could help me find my way through Ottawa officialdom. He took me on and always had time to discuss policy issues and approaches. To my delight, we also ended up working together in the same portfolio. 

He hosted my retirement event at Global Affairs Canada, presenting a slide show full of wry cartoons from the acerbic comic strip, “The Far Side.” 

The highlight was the two bears seen through the hunter’s scope with one smiling and pointing at the other as the preferred target. “You are the one smiling, Peter,” Ian said.

Colleagues, I was not the only one mentored and shaped by Ian Shugart. Since his passing last October, in addition to the grief felt by his beloved family – his wife, Linda, and their children, Robin, James, and Heather – 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.

 It is this quality, coupled with his deep spiritual faith and love for his country and its institutions that took him to the pinnacle of the Public Service as Clerk of the Privy Council and Secretary to the Cabinet.

Ian Shugart was a leader without peer. This rings true in the remarkable speech he gave in this chamber on June 20 on the value of restraint in political discourse and action. 

As with SARS all those years ago, he was telling us to be prepared, to exercise our best judgment, and to be mindful of the consequences of our actions. 

He said this diplomatically, of course, because, after all, the art of diplomacy is letting someone else have your way.

Rest in peace my friend, you great Canadian.


Ian Shugart, who served as Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs from 2016 until he was named the 45th Clerk of the Privy Council in 2019, died on October 25, 2023. Born and educated in Toronto he began his career as an advisor to Joe Clark and Brian Mulroney when the Progressive Conservative Party was the Official Opposition. Following the election of 1984 which saw the Progressive Conservatives assume office he served as a senior policy advisor to the Minister of National Health and Welfare Jake Epp, and subsequently as Mr. Epp’s Chief of Staff when he became Minister of Energy, Mines, and Resources in 1989.

Mr. Shugart joined the Public Service in 1991 and served in a number of government departments and agencies before becoming Deputy Minister for the Environment in 2006. He then served as Deputy Minister of Employment and Social Development beginning in 2010 before becoming Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs in 2016.

He stepped aside from his responsibilities as Clerk in 2021 to undergo treatment for cancer and was appointed to the Senate on September 26, 2022.

Following his death there were numerous tributes in the Senate. The tribute which follows was delivered by Senator Peter Boehm, a former Foreign Service Officer who served as Ambassador to Germany before becoming Associate Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs, G7 Sherpa, and Deputy Minister of International Development.

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