News Release

Hugh Segal, 1950-2023

August 10, 2023 Print

The staff and board of the Institute for Research on Public Policy (IRPP) are mourning the loss of former president, the Honourable Hugh Segal. We extend our sympathies to his spouse Donna Segal and daughter Jacqueline Segal, and to his extended family, his many friends and former colleagues.

Hugh was named the IRPP’s fifth president in 1999 and served in the position until 2006. He left soon after his appointment to the Senate by then prime minister Paul Martin. Hugh brought to the position a formidable background in government at both the federal and provincial levels, and a contagious enthusiasm around public policy issues.

“Hugh Segal transitioned effortlessly between politics, public service, think tank work and academia, bringing people together wherever he worked and raising the bar on the state of public discourse,” said IRPP President Jennifer Ditchburn. “His spirit of generosity and decency is part of his legacy at the Institute, and beyond.”

For Anne McLellan, the chair of the IRPP’s board of directors, Hugh Segal represented “the best of what we aspire to be. His commitment to good public policy was founded on a belief in the importance of vigorous yet informed and respectful conversation. He filled every room with energy, goodwill and joy.”

Hugh rapidly increased the profile of the Institute and fostered countless collaborations both in Canada and internationally. He made pivotal contributions to Canada’s public policy dialogue, including overseeing the launch of the award-winning Art of the State conference and book series, as well as an important research initiative on Strengthening Canadian Democracy. Not content to just run a busy think tank, he also personally directed a research program on national security and military interoperability. It turned out to be a prescient move, as the program took shape very shortly before the events of September 11, 2001. In 2005, he co-edited the IRPP book Geopolitical Integrity.

Hugh’s foreign policy expertise served him well when he became the chair of the Senate Foreign Affairs Committee, and later when he was appointed to the Commonwealth Eminent Persons Committee on Reform and Modernization, and as Canada’s special envoy to the Commonwealth. Hugh continued to contribute to the Institute in more recent years, publishing frequently in IRPP’s magazine Policy Options.

For those who worked with Hugh at the Institute, the sound of his laughter would signal that he had arrived at the Peel Street office in Montreal. He was a generous mentor and took personal interest in the lives of his staff and their families – embodying empathetic leadership well before it came into vogue. He encouraged employees to be ambitious in their goals for the think tank.

“Although his previous roles had been mostly in the political arena, he became a true and powerful champion for Canadian policy research,” said France St-Hilaire, who served as the IRPP’s vice-president of research from 1998 to 2022.  “In this and all his life’s endeavours, his prime motivation was to help make Canada a better place, which he did with a great sense of collegiality, humour and human decency.”

Thank you, Hugh, for your many years of dedicated service to the IRPP and to Canada itself. Rest in peace.

Hugh Segal (centre left) shares a laugh with Canada’s chief statistician, Anil Anora (left), former IRPP board chair Graham Scott (centre right), and Anne McLellan, chair of the IRPP’s board of directors (right) at the IRPP’s 50th anniversary celebration in Ottawa on November 23, 2022. Photo by Justin Tang.

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