Robert Gordon Robertson

Order of Canada Michael Pitfield Davidson, Saskatchewan
The Honourable

(Robert) Gordon Robertson

7th Commissioner of the Northwest Territories
In office
November 15, 1953 – July 12, 1963
MonarchElizabeth II
Preceded byHugh Andrew Young
Succeeded byBent Gestur Sivertz
Personal details
Born(1917-05-19)May 19, 1917
Davidson, Saskatchewan, Canada
DiedJanuary 15, 2013(2013-01-15) (aged 95)
Ottawa, Ontario

(Robert) Gordon Robertson, PC CC FRSC (May 19, 1917 – January 15, 2013) was Commissioner of the Northwest Territories from November 15, 1953 to July 12, 1963 who, having been sworn in at the age of 36, remains the youngest person to ever hold the office.[1] He went on to become Clerk of the Privy Council and Secretary to the Cabinet, the top position in the Canadian public service.


Born in Davidson, Saskatchewan, Robertson was educated at University of Saskatchewan, Exeter College, Oxford (where he was a Rhodes Scholar) and University of Toronto.[2] He joined the Department of External Affairs in 1941. From 1945 to 1948 he worked in the Prime Minister's Office of William Lyon Mackenzie King, and from 1948 to 1953 he was in the Privy Council Office under Prime Minister Louis St. Laurent. In 1953 he was appointed Deputy Minister of the newly formed Department of Northern Affairs and National Resources. By virtue of that position he was also Commissioner of the Northwest Territories. He remained in this combination of positions until 1963, when incoming Prime Minister Lester B. Pearson appointed him Clerk of the Privy Council and Secretary to the Cabinet, the top position in the Canadian public service. He held this position under Pearson and then under Pierre Trudeau until 1975. In that year, Trudeau appointed him Secretary to the Cabinet for Federal-Provincial Relations, to support Trudeau in his constitutional reform agenda. He remained in that position for most of the government of Joe Clark, retiring in December 1979.[3]

Awarded an honorary doctorate of laws from the University of Saskatchewan for outstanding service with the Department of Northern Affairs and National Resources and Commissioner of the Northwest Territories Council in 1959.[1] In 1970, he won the Vanier Medal of the Institute of Public Administration of Canada.[2]

Robertson was a recipient of the Public Service Outstanding Achievement Award in 1972; in 1976 he was made a Companion of the Order of Canada, and a member of the Privy Council in 1982 .[4]

Robertson served as chancellor of Carleton University in Ottawa from 1980 to 1990.[5]

In 2000, Robertson published Memoirs of a Very Civil Servant, which recounted his experiences as a senior civil servant under five Canadian Prime Ministers.[6]

Personal life

Robertson was born to John Gordon Robertson and Lydia A. Paulson. A prominent leader in Saskatchewan John Gordon Robertson served as Live Stock Commissioner in the province of Saskatchewan following his service in the Great War. Additionally John Robertson held many administrative offices in the province and served on several boards and organisations.[7] Robert Gordon Robertson had one brother Ronald Neil Robertson, and one sister, Jessie Lucille Robertson.

The Honourable Robert Gordon Robertson died on January 15, 2013.[8] [9]


  1. ^ a b "Honorary Degrees, Campus History". University Archives and Special Collections. University of Saskatchewan. September 29, 1959. Retrieved September 25, 2014.
  2. ^ a b Bothwell, Robert (September 17, 2014). "Robert Gordon Robertson, CC, Public servant (born 19 May 1917 in Davidson, SK; died 15 January 2013 in Ottawa On)". The Canadian Encyclopedia. Retrieved September 25, 2014.
  3. ^ "Robert Gordon Robertson". Clerk of the Privy Council. Government of Canada. June 1, 2012. Retrieved September 25, 2014.
  4. ^ "The Honorable Robert Gordon Robertson P.C., C.C., M.A., DU., F.R.S.C." The Globe and Mail. January 21, 2013. Retrieved September 25, 2014.
  5. ^ "Carleton Mourns the Passing of Former Chancellor Gordon Robertson". Carleton Newsroom. Carleton University. January 17, 2013. Retrieved September 25, 2014.
  6. ^ Robertson, Gordon (2000), Memoirs of a Very Civil Servant: Mackenzie King to Pierre Trudeau (illustrated, reprint ed.), Toronto, Ontario: University of Toronto Press, p. 408, ISBN 9780802044457
  7. ^ Hawkes, John (1924 re published 25-Sep-2014). "Robertson, John Gordon". The Story of Saskatchewan and its People. Julia Adamson, re-published Saskatchewan Gen Web. Volume III (illustrated ed.). Regina, Saskatchewan: The S.J. Clarke Publishing Company. Retrieved September 25, 2014. Check date values in: |date= (help)
  8. ^ "Robert Gordon Robertson,Obit" (audio broadcast). Newstalk Radio. CBC Radio Canada. September 17, 2014. Retrieved September 25, 2014.
  9. ^ "Former Privy Council Clerk Gordon Robertson Dies". CTV News. January 16, 2013. Retrieved September 25, 2014.