Former senator and Pierre Trudeau confidant Michael Pitfield dead at 80

Michael Pitfield, a former senator and clerk of the Privy Council, has died at the age of 80.

Former Privy Council clerk was youngest-ever Canadian to lead the public service

Michael Pitfield, shown in 1982, has died at the age of 80. Prime Minister Justin Trudeau announced the death late Thursday, saying Pitfield was a "family friend who was especially dear" to his father and his family. (Peter Bregg/Canadian Press)

Michael Pitfield, a former senator and clerk of the Privy Council, has died at the age of 80.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau announced the death late Thursday, saying Pitfield was a "family friend who was especially dear" to his father and his family.

Pitfield, who joined the public service in 1959, was a close confidant of former prime minister Pierre Trudeau during his time in office.

In addition to his role as a powerful clerk of the Privy Council, Pitfield also served as secretary to the cabinet and as a senator for Ottawa-Vanier over a career spanning 50 years.

'A pivotal role'

Trudeau said Pitfield remains the youngest ever Canadian to lead the public service and called his contributions to Canadian public life "far-reaching and enduring."

Pitfield joined the Senate in 1982 and sat as an independent until his retirement in 2010.

"Michael played a pivotal role in the patriation of the Constitution and the establishment of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms," said Trudeau.

"He was a tireless advocate of bilingualism and national unity whose leadership helped bring us closer as a country and make our democracy uniquely our own."

"On behalf of all Canadians, Sophie and I offer our deepest condolences to his three children, Caroline, Tom, and Kate, and to all of Michael's family and friends," Trudeau added.