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Monday January 21, 2013

The Honorable Robert Gordon Robertson
P. C., C. C., M.A., D.U., F.R.S. C.
Peacefully on January 15th, 2013 at the Madonna Retirement Residence at the age of 95 after a long battle with Alzheimer's which he bore with as much dignity as was possible and with his characteristic charm. Gordon was pre-deceased by his beloved wife of 58 years, Bea, and leaves behind son John and daughter Kerrie (Hale), both of whom were with him when he died. Also at his side was his companion of 12 years, Joan Kingstone, who was a dear friend to him after Bea's death; his niece, Anne Lawson, who for many years took Bea's place as Gordon's NAC Orchestra ''date''; and his beloved caregiver, Maria. Gordon was born on May 19, 1917 in Davidson, Saskatchewan and graduated from the University of Saskatchewan in 1938. After attending Oxford University as a Rhodes Scholar, Gordon joined the Department of External Affairs in 1941. He spent the rest of his career as a civil servant with the federal government, serving under six Prime Ministers. From 1945 to 1948 he worked in the Prime Minister's Office under Mackenzie King. From 1948 to 1953, he served in the Privy Council Office under Louis St. Laurent. In 1953, at the young age of 36, he was appointed Deputy Minister of the newly formed Department of Northern Affairs and National Resources. As Deputy Minister of the department, he was also Commissioner of the Northwest Territories. It was probably the job he enjoyed the most and one he held until 1963 when Lester Pearson appointed him Clerk of the Privy Council and Secretary to the Cabinet, the most senior position in the federal civil service. He held this post until 1975, first under Pearson and then under Pierre Trudeau. In 1975, he was made Secretary to the Cabinet for Federal-Provincial Relations, a new position created by Trudeau to aid in reforming the Canadian constitution. Gordon ''retired'' in 1979 and went on to become Chancellor of Carleton University; President of the Institute for Research on Public Policy; President of the Network on the Constitution; and to write a book - ''Memoirs of a Very Civil Servant.'' Gordon's awards include the Vanier Medal (1970), the Public Service Outstanding Achievement Award (1972), Companion of the Order of Canada (1976), and member of the Privy Council (1982). Gordon was a passionate Canadian who devoted his career to making the country a better place. He was known for his integrity, fairness, humility, vision and wry sense of humour. Besides his son and daughter, he leaves an extended and loving family including Bob Hale, Anna Robertson, Sylvia Carruthers, six grandchildren - Mark (Anne-Marie), Craig (Petrina), and Christie (Paul) Robertson; Ian, Daniel (Charlotte), and Jessica Hale - two great-grand children, Mikaela and Danika; and many admiring nieces and nephews. The funeral service will be held at MacKay United Church, 39 Dufferin Road (at MacKay), Ottawa on Monday, January 21 at 1:30 p.m. For those who wish, a contribution to the Alzheimer's Society, Dying With Dignity, or the Gordon Robertson National Inuit Scholarship (on-line at would be appreciated. Condolences/Donations/Tributes at: 613-233-1143

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