- Lester B. Pearson
Infobox Prime Minister
The Right Honourable
name = Lester Bowles Pearson
PC CC OBE OM
caption = Lester B. Pearson, 1944
order = 14th
office = Prime Minister of Canada
April 22, 1963
April 20, 1968
monarch = Elizabeth II
birth_date = birth date|1897 |4|23|mf=y
Newtonbrook, Toronto, Ontario
death_date = death date and age |1972|12|27|1897|4|23
party = Liberal
United Church of Canada
children = Geoffrey, Patricia
Soldier, Diplomat, Academic
alma_mater = MA ("Oxon") BA ("Oxon") BA (Tor)
Lester Bowles "Mike" Pearson PC OM CC OBE (
23 April, 1897– 27 December, 1972) was a Canadian statesman, diplomatand politicianwho won the Nobel Peace Prizein 1957. He was also the fourteenth Prime Minister of Canadafrom April 22, 1963, until April 20, 1968, as the head of two back-to-back minority governments following elections in 1963 and 1965.
During his time as Prime Minister, Pearson's minority government introduced universal health care, student loans, the
Canada Pension Plan, the Order of Canada, and the current Canadian flag. During his tenure, Prime Minister Pearson also convened the Royal Commission on Bilingualism and Biculturalism. With these accomplishments, together with his groundbreaking work at the United Nations, and in international diplomacy, Pearson is generally considered among the most influential Canadians of the 20th century.
Pearson was born in
Newtonbrook, Toronto, Ontario, the son of Edwin Arthur Pearson, a Methodist (later United Church of Canada) minister and Anne Sarah Bowles. He entered Victoria College at the University of Torontoin 1914, where he lived in residence in Gate Houseand shared a room with his brother Duke (Marmaduke). While at the University of Toronto, he joined the Delta UpsilonFraternity. He was subsequently elected to the Pi Gamma Musocial science honor society's chapter at the University of Toronto for his outstanding scholastic performance in history and sociology. At the university, he became a noted athlete, excelling in rugby unionand playing for the Oxford University Ice Hockey Club. Pearson also starred in baseballand lacrosseas a youth, frequently played golfand tennisas an adult, and so had the most intense and wideranging competitive sporting interests of any Canadian prime minister."Shadow of Heaven: The Life of Lester Pearson, volume 1, 1897-1948", by John English, 1989.]
First World War
When the First World War broke out in 1914, he volunteered for service as a Medical Orderly with the University of Toronto Hospital Unit. In 1915, he undertook overseas service with the Canadian Army Medical Corps as a stretcher bearer with the rank of Private and had a subsequent commissioning to the rank of Lieutenant. During this period of service he spent two years in
Egyptand Greece. In 1917, Pearson transferred to the Royal Flying Corps(as the Royal Canadian Air Forcedid not exist at that time), where he served as a Flying Officer until being sent home with injuries from two accidents; while training as a pilot at an air training school in Hendon, England, Pearson survived an airplane crash during his first flight. Unfortunately, in 1918, he was hit by a London bus during a blackout and was sent home as an invalid to recuperate and then discharged from the service.It was as a pilot that he received the nickname of "Mike", given to him by a flight instructor who felt that "Lester" was too mild a name for an airman. Thereafter, Pearson would use the name "Lester" on official documents and in public life, but was always addressed as "Mike" by friends and family. [The Nobel Foundation. [http://nobelprize.org/nobel_prizes/peace/laureates/1957/pearson-bio.html Lester B. Pearson Biography] . Nobelprize.org. Retrieved on: October 13, 2007.]
After the war, he returned to school, receiving his BA from the University of Toronto in 1919. Upon receiving a scholarship, he studied at St John's College, the (
University of Oxford), where he received a Second-Class BA in modern history in 1923 and the MA in 1925. After Oxford, he returned to Canada and taught history at the University of Toronto, where he also coached the Varsity Blues Canadian footballteam, and the Varsity Blues men's ice hockey team. In 1925, he married Maryon Moody(1901-1989), who was one of his students at the University of Toronto. Together, they had one daughter, Patricia, and one son, Geoffrey. ["Shadow of Heaven: The Life of Lester Pearson, volume 1, 1897-1948", by John English.]
After scoring the top marks on the Canadian foreign service entry exam, he then embarked on a career in the Department of External Affairs. Pearson was posted to
Londonin the late 1930s, and served there as World War IIbegan in 1939, until 1942 as the second-in-command at Canada House, where he coordinated military supply and refugee issues, serving under High Commissioner Vincent Massey. Pearson returned to Ottawafor a few months. He was then posted to Washington, D.C., where he served as second-in-command for nearly two years, and then became Canada's ambassador to the United States on January 1, 1945. He had an important part in founding both the United Nationsand NATO. During the Second World War, he once served as a courier with the codename "Mike." He went on to become the first director of Signal Intelligence.
Canadian Prime Minister
William Lyon Mackenzie Kingtried to recruit Pearson into his government as the war wound down. Pearson felt honoured by King's approach, but resisted at the time, due to his personal dislike of King's interpersonal style and political methods. ["Mr. Prime Minister 1867-1964", by Bruce Hutchison, Toronto1964, Longmans Canada publishers.] Pearson would not make the move into politics until a few years later, after King had announced his retirement as prime minister.
In 1948, Prime Minister
Louis St. Laurentappointed Pearson Minister of External Affairs in the Liberal government. Shortly afterward, he won a seat in the Canadian House of Commons, for the federal riding of Algoma East. In 1957, for his role in defusing the Suez Crisisthrough the United Nations, Pearson was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize. The selection committee claimed that Pearson had "saved the world." The United Nations Emergency Forcewas Pearson's creation, and he is considered the father of the modern concept of peacekeeping. His Nobel medal is on permanent display in the front lobby of the Lester B. Pearson Building, the headquarters of the Department of Foreign Affairs and International Tradein Ottawa.
He was elected leader of the Liberal Party at its 1958 leadership convention, defeating his chief rival, cabinet minister
Paul Joseph James Martin.
As the newly-elected leader of the Liberals, Mr. Pearson had given an ill-advised speech in the House of Commons that asked Prime Minister Diefenbaker to give power back to the Liberals without an election, because of a recent economic downturn. This strategy backfired when Diefenbaker seized on the error by showing a classified Liberal document saying that the economy would face a downturn in that year. This contrasted heavily with the Liberal's 1957 campaign promises, and would make sure the "arrogant" label would remain attached to the Liberal party.
Consequently, Pearson's party was badly routed in the election of that year, losing over half their seats, while Diefenbaker's Conservatives won one of the largest majorities. The election also cost the Liberals their Quebec stronghold; the province had voted largely Liberal in federal elections since the
Conscription Crisis of 1917, but upon the resignation of former Prime Minister Louis St. Laurent, the province had no favourite son leader, as they had since 1948.
Pearson convened a significant 'Thinkers' Conference' at
Kingston, Ontarioin 1960, which developed many of the ideas later implemented when he became prime minister. ["Citizen of the World: The Life of Pierre Elliott Trudeau", volume 1, by John English, Toronto 2006, Knopf Canada publishers.]
Not long after the election, Pearson capitalized on the Conservatives' indecision on installing nuclear warheads on
Bomarc missiles. Minister of National Defence Douglas Harknessresigned from Cabinet on February 4, 1963because of Diefenbaker's opposition to accepting the missiles. The next day, the government lost two non-confidence motions on the issue, prompting the election.
Pearson led the Liberals to a minority government in the 1963 general election, and became prime minister. He had campaigned during the election promising "60 Days of Decision" and support for the Bomarc missile program.
Pearson never had a majority in the
Canadian House of Commons, but he nevertheless managed to bring in many of Canada's major social programs, including universal health care, the Canada Pension Planand Canada Student Loans, and established a new national flag, the Maple Leaf. This was due in part to support for his minority government in the House of Commons from the New Democratic Party, led by Tommy Douglas. His legislation included instituting the 40-hour work week, two weeks vacation time and a new minimum wage.
Pearson signed the
Canada-United States Automotive Agreement(or Auto Pact) in January 1965, and unemployment fell to its lowest rate in over a decade. [http://ms.radio-canada.ca/archives/2002/en/wmv/autopact19650107et1.wmv] While in office, Pearson resisted U.S. pressure to enter the Vietnam War. Pearson spoke at Temple Universityin Philadelphia on April 2, 1965, while visiting the United States, and voiced his support for a negotiated settlement to the Vietnam War. When he visited U.S. President Lyndon B. Johnsonthe next day, Johnson (supposedly) grabbed Pearson by the lapels and shouted, "You pissed on my rug." [ [http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/articles/A43737-2004Aug5.html The View From Out There (washingtonpost.com) ] ] Pearson later recounted that the meeting was acrimonious, but insisted the two parted cordially. After this incident, LBJ and Pearson did have further contacts, including two further meetings together, both times in Canada. (Canadians most remember the Pearson years as a time Canada-U.S. relations greatly improved.) [http://www.lbjlib.utexas.edu/johnson/archives.hom/holdings/Findingaids/WHCF/COLIST.asp]
Pearson also started a number of
Royal Commissions, including one on the status of women and another on bilingualism. They instituted changes that helped create legal equality for women, and brought official bilingualism into being. After Pearson, French was made an official language, and the Canadian government would provide services in both. Pearson himself had hoped that he would be the last unilingual Prime Minister of Canada and, indeed, fluency in both English and French became an unofficial requirement for Prime Ministerial candidates after Pearson left office.
His government endured significant controversy in Canada's military services throughout the mid-1960s, following the tabling of the
White Paper on Defencein March 1964. This document laid out a plan to merge the Royal Canadian Navy, the Royal Canadian Air Force, and the Canadian Armyto form a single service called the Canadian Armed Forces. Military unification took effect on 1 February 1968 when "The Canadian Forces Reorganization Act" received Royal Assent.
Pearson was also remarkable for instituting the world's first race-free
immigrationsystem, throwing out previous ones that had discriminated against certain people, such as Jews and the Chinese. His points-based system encouraged immigration to Canada, and a similar system is still in place today.
Pearson also oversaw Canada's centennial celebrations in 1967 before retiring. The Canadian news agency,
The Canadian Press, named him "Newsmaker of the Year" that year, citing his leadership during the centennial celebrations, which brought the Centennial Flameto Parliament Hill.
Also in 1967, the President of France,
Charles de Gaullemade a visit to Quebec. During that visit, de Gaulle was a staunch advocate of Quebec separatism, even going so far as to say that his procession in Montrealreminded him of his return to Parisafter it was freed from the Nazis during the Second World War. President de Gaulle also gave his "Vive le Québec libre" speech during the visit. Given Canada's efforts in aid of France during both world wars, Pearson was enraged. He rebuked de Gaulle in a speech the following day, remarking that "Canadians do not need to be liberated" and making it clear that de Gaulle was no longer welcome in Canada. The French President returned to his home country and would never visit Canada again.
Supreme Court appointments
Pearson chose the following jurists to be appointed as justices of the
Supreme Court of Canadaby the Governor General:
Robert Taschereau(as Chief Justice, April 22, 1963– September 1, 1967; appointed a Puisne Justiceunder Prime Minister King, February 9, 1940)
Wishart Flett Spence( May 30, 1963– December 29, 1978)
John Robert Cartwright(as Chief Justice, September 1, 1967– March 23, 1970; appointed a Puisne Justiceunder Prime Minister St. Laurent, December 22, 1949)
Louis-Philippe Pigeon( September 21, 1967– February 8, 1980)
After his announcement on
December 14, 1967, that he was retiring from politics, a leadership convention was held. Pearson's successor was Pierre Trudeau, a man who Pearson had recruited and made Minister of Justice in his cabinet. Trudeau later became Prime Minister, and two other cabinet ministers Pearson recruited, John Turnerand Jean Chrétien, served as prime ministers in the years following Trudeau's retirement. Paul Martin Jr., the son of Pearson's minister of external affairs, Paul Martin Sr., also went on to become prime minister.
Pearson served as Chancellor of
Carleton Universityin Ottawa from 1969 until his death in 1972. Pearson is buried just north of Gatineau, in Wakefield, QC in Maclaren Cemetery, next to his close External Affairs colleagues H. H. Wrongand Norman Robertson.
Honours and awards
Canadian Pressnamed Pearson "Newsmaker of the Year" nine times, a record he held until his successor, Pierre Trudeau, surpassed it in 2000. He was also only one of two prime ministers to have received the honour, both before and when prime minister (the other being Brian Mulroney).
Lester B. Pearson Awardis awarded annually to the National Hockey League's outstanding player in the regular season, as judged by members of the NHL Players Association(NHLPA). It was first awarded in 1971 to Phil Esposito, a native of Sault Ste. Marie, Ontario.
* Pearson was inducted into the Sports Hall of Fame at the
University of Toronto.
* Pearson was inducted into the
Canadian Baseball Hall of Famein 1983.
Lester B. Pearson Building, completed in 1973, is the headquarters for the Department of Foreign Affairs and International Trade, a tribute to his service as external affairs minister.
Lester B. Pearson College, opened in 1974, is a United World Collegenear Victoria, British Columbia.
Pearson Medal of Peace, first awarded in 1979, is an award given out annually by the United Nations Association in Canadato recognize an individual Canadian's "contribution to international service."
Toronto Pearson International Airport, first opened in 1939 and re-christened with its current name in 1984, is Canada's busiest airport.
Pearson Peacekeeping Centre, established in 1994, is an independent not-for-profit institution providing research and training on all aspects of peace operations.
Lester B. Pearson School Boardis the largest English-language school boardin Quebec. [http://www.lbpsb.qc.ca/isp/About%20Us] The majority of the schools of the Lester B. Pearson School Board are located on the western half of the island of Montreal, with a few of its schools located off the island as well.
Lester B. Pearson High Schoollists five so-named schools, in Calgary, Toronto, Burlington, Ottawa, and Montreal. There are also elementary schools in Ajax, Ontario; Aurora, Ontario; Brampton, Ontario; London, Ontario; Saskatoon, Saskatchewan; Waterloo, Ontarioand Wesleyville, Newfoundland.
* "Pearson Avenue" is located near Highway 407 and
Yonge Streetin Richmond Hill, Ontario, Canada; less than five miles from his place of birth.
* "Pearson Way" is an arterial access road located in a new subdivision in
Milton, Ontario; many ex-Prime Ministers are being honoured in this growing community, including Prime Ministers Trudeauand Laurier.
* "Lester B. Pearson Place" completed in 2006, is a four storey affordable housing building in Newtonbrook, Ontario, mere steps from his place of birth.
*"Lester B. Pearson Civic Centre," [http://www.cityofelliotlake.com/civiccentre.html] is in
Elliot Lake, Ontario
* A plaque at the north end of the North American Life building in
North Yorkcommemorates his place of birth. The manse where Pearson was born is gone, but a plaque is located at his birth site. [http://www.ontarioplaques.com/Plaques_Toronto/Plaque_Toronto90.html]
Pearson Cupwas a baseball competition between the Toronto Blue Jaysand Montreal Expos.
Lester B. Pearson received Honorary Degrees from 48 Universities, including:
University of Torontoin 1945 (LL.D) [http://www.utoronto.ca/govcncl/HonoraryDegreeRecipients1850-Present.pdf]
University of Rochesterin 1947 (LL.D) [http://www.library.rochester.edu/index.cfm?PAGE=1702]
McMaster Universityin 1948 (LL.D) [http://www.mcmaster.ca/univsec/lists/S_HD_Recipients.pdf]
Bates Collegein 1951 (LL.D) [http://www.bates.edu/x61666.xml]
Princeton Universityin 1956 (LL.D) [http://www.princeton.edu/pr/facts/honorary/#50]
University of British Columbiain 1958 (LL.D) [http://www.library.ubc.ca/archives/honchron.html]
University of Notre Damein 1963
*Waterloo Lutheran University later changed to
Wilfrid Laurier Universityin 1964 (LL.D)
Memorial University of Newfoundlandin 1964 (LL.D) [http://www.mun.ca/senate/Honorary_Degrees/honorary_degrees.html]
Johns Hopkins Universityin 1964 (LL.D) [http://www.jhu.edu/news_info/news/commence05/honorary/alpha.html] [http://www.jhu.edu/commencement/honorary/alpha.html]
University of Western Ontarioin 1964 (LL.D) [http://communications.uwo.ca/western_news/story.html?listing_id=12101] [http://www.uwo.ca/univsec/senate/honorary_degrees_by_surname.pdf]
Laurentian Universityin 1965 (LL.D) [http://www.oldwebsite.laurentian.ca/president/index_e.php?file=honorary_e]
*University of Saskatchewan (Regina Campus) later changed to
University of Reginain 1965 [http://www.uregina.ca/gencal/gencal1999/uofr_history.html] [http://www.usask.ca/archives/history/hondegrees.php?screen=advanced]
McGill Universityin 1965 [http://www.archives.mcgill.ca/public/hist_mcgill/conv/convocation.htm]
Queen's Universityin 1965 (LL.D) [http://www.queensu.ca/secretariat/HDrecipients.pdf]
Dalhousie Universityin 1967 (LL.D) [http://convocation.dal.ca/history/08_honorary.html]
University of Calgaryin 1967 [http://www.senate.ucalgary.ca/documents/HDRECIP.LST_000.pdf] [http://www.senate.ucalgary.ca/senate/files/senate/HDRECIP_LST_2006.pdf]
*UCSB in 1967
Canada and the Vietnam War
Great Flag Debate
Senator Landon Pearson
* Beal, John Robinson. "Pearson of Canada." 1964.
* Beal, John Robinson and Poliquin, Jean-Marc. "Les trois vies de Pearson of Canada." 1968.
* Bliss, Michael. "Right Honourable Men: the descent of Canadian politics from Macdonald to Mulroney", 1994.
* Bothwell, Robert. "Pearson, His Life and World." Toronto: McGraw-Hill Ryerson, 1978. ISBN 0-07-082305-7.
* Bowering, George. "Egotists and Autocrats: The Prime Ministers of Canada", 1997.
* Champion, C.P. "A Very British Coup: Canadianism, Quebec and Ethnicity in the Flag Debate, 1964-1965." "Journal of Canadian Studies 40.3 (2006)", p. 68-99. [http://findarticles.com/p/articles/mi_qa3683/is_200610/ai_n17194033/pg_1 Journal of Canadian Studies 40.3]
* Champion, C.P. "Mike Pearson at Oxford: War, Varsity, and Canadianism," Canadian Historical Review, 88, 2, June 2007, 263-90.
* Donaldson, Gordon. "The Prime Ministers of Canada", 1999.
* English, John. "Shadow of Heaven: The Life of Lester Pearson, Volume I, 1897-1948." Toronto: Lester & Orpen Dennys, 1989. ISBN 0-88619-169-6.
* English, John. "The Worldly Years: The Life of Lester Pearson, Volume II, 1949-1972." Toronto: Lester & Orpen Dennys, 1992. ISBN 0-394-22729-8.
* Ferguson, Will. "Bastards and Boneheads: Canada's Glorious Leaders, Past and Present", 1997.
* Fry, Michael G. "Freedom and Change: Essays in Honour of Lester B. Pearson." Toronto: McClelland and Stewart, 1975. ISBN 0-7710-3187-
* Hillmer, Norman and J.L. Granatstein, "Prime Ministers: Rating Canada's Leaders", 2001.
* Hutchison, Bruce. "Mr. Prime Minister 1867-1964", Toronto: Longmans Canada, 1964.
* Stursberg, Peter. "Lester Pearson and the Dream of Unity." Toronto: Doubleday, 1978. ISBN 0-385-13478-9.
* Thordarson, Bruce. "Lester Pearson: Diplomat and Politician." Toronto: Oxford University Press, 1974. ISBN 0-19-540225-1.
* Pearson, Lester B. "Canada: Nation on the March." Toronto: Clarke, Irwin, 1953.
* Pearson, Lester B. "The Crisis of Development." Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 1970.
* Pearson, Lester B. "Diplomacy in the Nuclear Age." Boston: Harvard University Press, 1959.
* Pearson, Lester B. "The Four Faces of Peace and the International Outlook." Toronto: McClelland and Stewart, 1964.
* Pearson, Lester B. "Mike : The Memoirs of the Right Honourable Lester B. Pearson." Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 1972. ISBN 0-575-01709-0 .
* Pearson, Lester B. "Peace in the Family of Man." London: Oxford University Press, 1969. ISBN 0-563-08449-9.
* Pearson, Lester B. "Words and Occasions: An Anthology of Speeches and Articles." Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 1970. ISBN 0-674-95611-7.
* [http://www.biographi.ca/009004-119.01-e.php?&id_nbr=7988 Biography at the "Dictionary of Canadian Biography Online"]
* [http://www.cbc.ca/greatest/top_ten/nominee/pearson-lester.html "Greatest Canadian" write-up of Lester Pearson]
* [http://collections.ic.gc.ca/discourspm/anglais/lbp/bio.html National Archives biography]
* [http://nobelprize.org/peace/laureates/1957/pearson-bio.html Nobel prize website]
* [http://www.peace.ca/CanadianPeaceHallOfFame.htm Canadian Peace Hall of Fame]
* [http://www.gg.ca/honours/search-recherche/honours-desc.asp?lang=e&TypeID=orc&id=2235 Order of Canada Citation]
* [http://www.parl.gc.ca/information/about/people/key/bio.asp?lang=E&query=1511&s=M Political Biography from the Library of Parliament]
* [http://archives.cbc.ca/IDD-1-74-1265/people/lester_b_pearson/ CBC Digital Archivesndash Lester B. Pearson: From Peacemaker to Prime Minister]
* [http://www.ac-fpeh.com/alumni/halloffame_bio.php?id=16 University of Toronto Athletic Hall of Fame, Inducted 1987]
* [http://www.thecanadianencyclopedia.com/index.cfm?PgNm=TCE&Params=A1ARTA0006175 Lester Bowles Pearson from "The Canadian Encyclopedia"]
* [http://www.suezcrisis.ca An in-depth exploration of Pearson’s diplomacy during the Suez Crisis of 1956]
NAME=Pearson, Lester Bowles "Mike"
SHORT DESCRIPTION=14th Prime Minister of Canada (1963–1968)
DATE OF BIRTH=birth date|1897|4|23|mf=y
PLACE OF BIRTH=
DATE OF DEATH=death date|1972|12|27|mf=y
PLACE OF DEATH=
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