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Robert Kaplan, the Trudeau-era cabinet minister who ushered in Canada's security intelligence service, has died at 75.

A spokeswoman for federal Liberal Leader Bob Rae said the party learned of his death Monday.

As Canada's solicitor-general in the early 1980s, Mr. Kaplan oversaw the birth of the Canadian Security Intelligence Service, which was established by an act of Parliament in 1984, following a commission of inquiry into the functioning of the RCMP's security service.

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"I knew Bob well – we served together in the House when I was first elected in 1978. He was a real gentleman – thoughtful, intelligent – who cared a lot about policy and ideas," Mr. Rae said in an e-mail Monday evening.

"[He] shepherded the CSIS legislation skilfully. I saw him a couple of months ago when he was frail – the cancer had hit his brain, but he remained brave and positive, giving very thoughtful advice. I shall miss him."

Former Progressive Conservative MP Ron Atkey was the first chair of the Security Intelligence Review Committee, the body set up to monitor CSIS' activities. He said he knew Mr. Kaplan as a well-spoken politician who was keen to see the new security and intelligence regime succeed.

"He regarded the system as his baby. He was happy to see that it worked reasonably well," Mr. Atkey said Monday.

He said Mr. Kaplan continued to keep a close eye on the service after former Liberal prime minister Pierre Trudeau's government was defeated by Brian Mulroney in 1984.

"Even though I was not a political supporter of [Mr. Kaplan's], because I'm a Conservative and he was a Liberal, I found him a very decent guy, a very capable fellow and well-respected," Mr. Atkey said. "He was such a decent guy that he probably wouldn't have survived very well in today's House [of Commons]."

Mr. Kaplan served as MP for the Toronto riding of Don Valley from 1968 until 1972 and represented York Centre from 1974 until 1993.

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He wrote on security and intelligence issues and co-wrote a book on bicycling in Toronto with his wife, Estherelke Kaplan, in 1972.

A funeral service will be held in Toronto Tuesday afternoon.

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