A small plane crashed Tuesday off an island in eastern Quebec, killing seven people, Quebec provincial police said.

Among those killed was former federal cabinet minister and political commentator Jean Lapierre.

His wife, two of his brothers and one of his sisters also died when their plane crashed. They were traveling to the Iles-de-la-Madeleine after the recent death of Lapierre's father.

Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau tweeted that he was "shaken by the sudden death" of Lapierre and called it a great loss to the political world.

Former Canadian Prime Minister Paul Martin called Lapierre, who served as Martin's transport minister, a wonderful man who understood the issues and loved people.

The fluently bilingual Lapierre, 59, was much sought-after as a political commentator in English and French. Many well-known Canadian journalists posted messages on social media during the day, begging Lapierre to say something to deny rumors he was on board the plane.

The plane was a Mitsubishi turboprop and is believed to have belonged to a private company. The plane had taken off from the St-Hubert regional airport south of Montreal earlier in the morning.

"The crash took place in a field on approach to the airport," said Quebec provincial police Sgt. Daniel Thibodeau, who described the weather conditions as "not ideal" for flying.

The plane crashed close to the airport in the Iles-de-la-Madeleine just off eastern Quebec. The cause was not immediately known.

The Transportation Safety Board of Canada is deploying a team of investigators.

Environment Canada had issued an alert for strong winds in the region.

Lapierre was elected to Canada's Parliament as a federalist Liberal in 1979, representing a Quebec district. He briefly served as youth and amateur sports minister in a short-lived government in 1984. At that time, he was just 28, the youngest cabinet minister ever appointed to that point. He co-chaired Martin's campaign for the Liberal leadership in 1990. He later became a founding member of the separatist Bloc Quebecois, although Lapierre later said he was never really a supporter of an independent Quebec.

He quit federal politics in 1992 but returned after Martin became Liberal leader in late 2003. He served as transport minister between 2004 and 2006.

He is survived by his two children, Marie-Anne and Jean-Michel.