P.M.#14 – Canada’s Only Nobel Peace Laureate

Today’s installment of my prime ministerial series brings us to Lester B. Pearson. I also didn’t have a guest writer on this one, so it’s back to me ripping off Wikipedia and the Dictionary of Canadian Biography Online.

Lester B. Pearson with a pencil.jpg

Name Lester Bowles “Mike” Pearson
Born: April 23, 1897 in Newtonbrook, Ontario
Died: December 27, 1972
Party: Liberal
Held Office: April 22, 1963 – April 20, 1968
Best known for: – won the Nobel Peace Prize in 1957 for “for his role in defusing the Suez Crisis through the United Nations”1-he is considered the creator of the concept of peacekeeping

-the Toronto aiport is named after him

-the most outstanding player in the regular season of the NHL, as voted by the NHL Players Association, is awarded the Lester B. Pearson Award. Won by such notables as Wayne Gretsky, Phil Esposito, Bobby Orr, Steve Yzerman and Mario Lemieux, the award this year went to the young and talented Sidney Crosby.

-he was the Prime Minister during Canada’s Centennial

-3 of his cabinet ministers (Trudeau, Turner and Chrétien) and the son of one of his other cabinet ministers (Martin) would go on to become PMs themselves

Some Things I Didn’t Know About This P.M. -despite holding only minority government, his governments were able to introduce:

-universal health care (which I (and other Canadians) am (are) very fortunate to be able to access)

-student loans (which I was very glad to have access to….grants would have been better, but student loans did make it possible for me to go to school, which I would not have been able to do without them).

-the Canada Pension Plan (which I will some day be living on)

– the current Canadian flag (which I happen to quite like)

-the Order of Canada (which I plan to be awarded with one day, for my sheer awesomeness)

-he was a frat boy

-he married his student who he was apparently engaged to *before* the end of the term in which he was teaching her!

-he played (and coached) a whole bunch of sports, including hockey (hence the whole NHL trophy being named after him and all)

-he was given the nickname “Mike” when he was a pilot in “Royal Flying Corps” (apparently we didn’t yet have the “Royal Canadian Air Force”); his flight instructor thought the name “Lester” was “too mild” for a pilot

-as a public servent, he dissented to King’s “rejoicing” over the 1938 Munich agreement2 between Hitler and Brit PM Chamberlain (as well as Italy & France); he felt that Hitler’s Germany “does indeed stand for savagery and barbarism” and “I have a feeling they’re going to do a lot of mischief before they are exorcised.”

-he started Royal Commissions on the Status of Women and on Bilingualism (both of which he was not)

-he unified the Air Force, Navy and Army into a single service: the Canadian Armed Forces

-he created the “world’s first race-free immigration system,” getting rid of previous systems that had discriminated against, for example, Jewish and Chinese people

If you are just dying to read more about Pearson, check out:

Ice hockey 1922.jpg

That’s Pearson at front right, playing hockey for
Oxford University (vs. Switzerland) in 1922. According to Wikipedia,
the Swiss referred to him as “Herr Zig-Zag”)

2The Munich Agreement, signed by Nazi Germany, Britian, France and Italy, allowed Germany to annex Czechoslovakia’s Sudetenland. Notice that Czechoslovakia is not on the list of people signing the agreement – they weren’t even invited to the table! The majority of the people in Sudetenland were ethnic German, but the area had become part of Czechoslovakia after WWI and Czechoslovakia had much of its border defences in that area.

Image credits: The pictures are from the Library and Archives Canada, copyright is expired.

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