Canada’s most senior civil servant, Ian Shugart, to undergo cancer treatment

By on 10/02/2021 | Updated on 10/02/2021
Ian Shugart, seen here at a 2017 NATO meeting, will temporarily step back from work to undergo cancer treatment. Credit: NATO North Atlantic Treat Organization/Flickr

Canada’s most senior civil servant, Ian Shugart, is to step back from work while receiving treatment for cancer.

In a note to staff on Monday, Shugart, who is clerk of Canada’s Privy Council and secretary to the Cabinet, said that he had received a diagnosis two weeks ago and would be undergoing treatment in about four weeks’ time, according to the National Post newspaper.

“Nothing will change in the short term; I will continue to be fully engaged,” the note is reported as saying. But, he added, “I will likely have to scale back, and subsequently be absent for a period of time. I will take this as it comes, and keep you posted.”

In his absence, Shugart said, the Privy Council Office will “serve and support Canadians and the Government, as always, with enthusiasm and diligence”.

There have been many messages of support for Shugart on social media. Canada’s prime minister, Justin Trudeau, tweeted: “Ian Shugart, the Clerk of the Privy Council, is leading our public service during this crisis and working tirelessly on supports to help Canadians through the pandemic. As he faces health challenges, I want him to know that we’re all pulling for him.”

Shugart became clerk of the Privy Council in April 2019, after his predecessor Michael Wernick took early retirement. Before taking the reins at the privy council, he was deputy minister of foreign affairs. Other roles include deputy minister of Employment and Social Development Canada, chairperson of the Canada Employment Insurance Commission, and deputy minister of the environment.

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