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The top federal public servant will be taking some time out for cancer treatment.

Ian Shugart, clerk of the Privy Council, sent a message Monday to his colleagues announcing that he received a cancer diagnosis two weeks ago.

He says he intends to remain “fully engaged” in the short term.

But as he starts treatment in about four weeks, Shugart says he will likely have to scale back his workload and be absent for “a period of time.”

In his absence, he says the team at the Privy Council Office will continue to serve and support Canadians and the government.

Shugart was appointed clerk of the Privy Council in April 2019 after serving in a variety of senior positions in the federal bureaucracy, including deputy minister of foreign affairs, environment and employment and social development.

He has played a crucial role throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, presiding over the federal bureaucracy as it scrambled to create massive new programs to help Canadians weather the health crisis, even as tens of thousands of public servants were working from home.

Shugart took over from Michael Wernick, who retired after opposition parties accused him of being too combative and partisan in his defence of the government’s conduct in the SNC-Lavalin affair.

Shugart has come in for his own share of criticism for making what opposition parties charged were excessive redactions to government documents concerning the WE Charity affair.

His’s message Monday to his colleagues was brief and offered little detail.

“I am sorry to have to tell you that a couple of weeks ago, I received a cancer diagnosis,” he wrote.

“Nothing will change in the short term; I will continue to be fully engaged. As I start treatment in about four weeks 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.

“Meanwhile our great PCO team will serve and support Canadians and the Government, as always, with enthusiasm and diligence! I am confident of your best wishes, and I am grateful.”

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