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Geoffrey Pearson, a retired diplomat and the son of the former prime minister, has died.

Mr. Pearson, who turned 80 in December, passed away in his sleep early Tuesday, said family friend Nancy Gordon. She did not know the cause of his death.

"He was a great diplomat, he was very interested in Canadian foreign policy," Ms. Gordon said Tuesday night.

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In many ways, Mr. Pearson carried on the work and legacy of his father, former Liberal prime minister Lester Pearson, she said. Geoffrey Pearson was Canada's ambassador to the Soviet Union from 1980 to 1983. He was also a foreign service officer and a former executive director of the Canadian Institute for International Peace and Security.

Bob Rae, a long-time family friend, last saw Mr. Pearson in December at a one-day conference Mr. Rae presided over to honour the 50th anniversary of Lester Pearson's Nobel Peace Prize. He said he had been unwell.

"I'm obviously very saddened to learn of his passing. He was a very fine man, he was very committed to Canada's role as a peacemaker and peacekeeper in the world, was a great Canadian ambassador and had a very great sense of humour," he said.

Mr. Pearson, who was retired, was also a past president of the United Nations Association in Canada. He wrote about and commented on foreign affairs long after his retirement, including for The Globe and Mail and other media. He wrote a book about his father, Seize the Day: Lester B. Pearson and Crisis Diplomacy, which was published in 1993.

Ms. Gordon, who worked for Mr. Pearson at the Canadian Institute for International Peace and Security and has known him since the mid-1970s, spoke with his son about his passing. "They're shocked and sad," she said.

Mr. Pearson leaves his wife, former senator Landon Pearson. They have five children.

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