Legacy of Lester B. Pearson

Legacy of Lester B. Pearson



L to R: Dr. Richard M. Alway, Chairman, Historic Sites and Monuments Board of Canada; Sen. Landon Pearson; Patricia Pearson, Author; Hon. Andrew Leslie, MP, representing the Government of Canada.

Table of Contents
1. The commemorative event on April 4
2. The Top 20 Pearson accomplishments
3. “LBP” by Patricia Pearson


Invitation of event to mark certain legacies of Lester B. Pearson.

Parcs Canada et la
Commission des lieux et monuments historiques du Canada
vous invitent à Célébrer l’héritage

de Lester b Pearson

le Traité de l’Atlantique Nord de 1949 et
la Création du drapeau canadien

L’événement aura lieu
le mardi 4 avril 2017, à 10 h 30au
Centre national des Arts
1, rue Elgin
Ottawa (Ontario)

Parks Canada
and the Historic Sites and Monuments Board of Canada
invite you to Celebrate the Legacy of

Lester B Pearson

the North Atlantic Treaty of 1949 and
the Creation of the National Flag

The event will take place on
Tuesday, April 4, 2017 at 10:30 a.m.
at the
National Arts Centre
1 Elgin Street,
Ottawa, Ontario



Arrivé au poste de premier ministre il y a plus de 50 ans, soit le 22 avril 1963, Lester B. Pearson compte à son crédit un certain nombre de réalisations qui définissent le Canada moderne. Il a dirigé deux gouvernements minoritaires de 1963 à 1968.

Le Centre Pearson pour des politiques progressistes a préparé la liste – les 20 plus grands réalisations – qui suit à partir d’un sondage informel et ce, pour encourager un dialogue sur ces réalisations dont la plupart sont toujours de grande importance aujourd’hui et vont continuer d’évoluer au fil du temps. Nous invitons les chercheurs et étudiants à étudier à fond l’avenir de ces politiques durant les 50 prochaines années !

1. Le nouveau drapeau canadien – la feuille d’érable
2. Le Régime d’assurance-maladie
3. Le Régime de pensions du Canada
4. L’Ordre du Canada
5. Expo 67
6. La création de la Commission royale sur le bilinguisme et le biculturalisme
7. L’affectation de francophones du Québec à des postes de haute direction au gouvernement fédéral
8. La création de la Commission royale d’enquête sur la situation de la femme au Canada
9. Le Pacte de l’automobile canado-américain
10. La réforme du système d’immigration (abandon des quotas)
11. Les prêts aux étudiants
12. L’Agence canadienne de développement international
13. Le Centre de recherches pour le développement international
14. Le Conseil économique du Canada
15. Le Conseil des sciences du Canada
16. La Corporation de développement du Canada
17. Un nouveau Code du travail
18. L’unification des Forces armées
19. Pas de présence canadienne au Vietnam
20. Faire en sorte que le gouvernement minoritaire marche !

Lester B. Pearson came to office over 50 years ago on April 22, 1963. He is credited with a number of accomplishments that define modern Canada. He led two minority governments from 1963 to 1968.
The Pearson Centre for Progressive Policy has put together this Top 20 list following an informal survey to encourage dialogue on this record. These are not in order of popularity. Most of the accomplishments are still important today and continue to evolve over time. We encourage researchers and students to explore the future of these policies for the next 50 years!

1. The new Canadian flag, the maple leaf
2. Medicare
3. Canada Pension Plan
4. The Order of Canada
5. Expo 67
6. Establishing the Royal Commission on Bilingualism and Biculturalism
7. Bringing Quebec francophones into senior positions in the federal government
8. Establishing the Royal Commission on the Status of Women
9. The Canada-US Autopact
10. Reforming the immigration system (dropping quotas)
11. Canada Student Loans
12. Canadian International Development Agency
13. International Development Research Council
14. Economic Council of Canada
15. Science Council of Canada
16. Canadian Development Corporation
17. A new labour code
18. Unification of the Armed Forces
19. Kept Canada out of Vietnam
20. Made minority government work!

* developed through an informal poll by the Pearson Centre. Not in order of importance.


by Patricia Pearson
April 4, 2017

It is our deepest hope, that we can simply be peaceful and prosper. It is the evocative power of this hope that is nested in Tolkien’s great trilogy, The Lord of the Rings. Everything, all sense of malice and chaos and drift is measured against the peace of the hobbit’s shire. That is where the story begins, in the books. But for Tolkien, as for so many authors, politicians and scholars of his generation, that was a retrospective analysis. Peace comes to be cherished by the terrors in its absence.

So it was for Lester Pearson and his colleagues at Canada’s fledgling department of external affairs in the decade after World War One. These were young men who had been forged, hazed and traumatized by war. Who then experienced it all over again in the 1940s.

The extraordinary years from 1945 to 1968, during which my grandfather made his mark on Canada, involved the response of those men and women to what they had lived through: the negotiation of the great post-war global institutions, the creation of key trans-Atlantic alliances such as NATO, the Suez crisis giving rise to peacekeeping, and finally the domestic politics of the sixties that defined Canada as a compassionate, humanitarian nation, and that culminated in the flag debate and in our centennial celebration. We became who we continue to be: a nation of citizens, of immigrants, who have witnessed suffering and vowed, ‘never again.’

Born in small town, Anglophone Ontario in a world where the British Empire was a dominant fact, Lester Pearson died at the age of 75 in a Canada that recognized its biculturalism, that stood on its own in the world and that was moving rapidly to the urbanized, and very diverse country that it is today.

What was it about Pearson himself that led him to become the best known Canadian in the world of his time, as one of his biographers, Andrew Cohen, has described him? The answer lies, perhaps, in a combination of apt temperament, cultivated skill, and opportunity. Cohen rightly underlines certain traits of his character: modesty, humour, calm pragmatism. In discussing the events that led to the 1956 Suez resolution in his biography, Cohen describes a man who could be the “imperturbable centre of the whirlwind”, drawing on a deep knowledge of the UN and of the interests and personalities of all parties, while being a seasoned professional in the right place at the right time. His relative lack of ego and his ability to detach himself from turmoil could have left him on the sideline of many debates. But his strong intelligence and the skill with which he was able to deploy it took him into the fray and gave him the chance to prevail, particularly in diplomacy.

As my father Geoffrey Pearson noted in his own book on the diplomacy of Lester Pearson, LBP proved gifted at “seizing the day”.

At the same time as the Suez crisis was unfolding, Pearson was participating fully in the drafting of the Report of the so-called Committee of Three, a trio of foreign ministers as proposed by US Secretary of State John Foster Dulles ”to advise the NATO Council on the ways and means to improve and extend NATO cooperation into non-military fields.” Here, Pearson’s skill was to steer this committee to focus not just on methods for cooperation but on the ways in which the Alliance could, in his words, “successfully adapt itself to a changing political environment and find something other than fear that could ensure close and effective co-ordination between member governments.” His ability to get along with all concerned kept the Committee moving forward. And his pragmatism led to the drafting of a Report that could be accepted by large and small members of the Alliance. As he said in his memoir, “middle and smaller powers can rarely lay down policies which greater powers will adopt unless it is clearly in their own interests to do so. They can, however, influence the policy of their more powerful friends if their proposals are sound in principle and their diplomacy in advocating them is skilful and determined.”

Pearson`s words and his advice ring true today as they did in 1956. As we enter a time of unprecedented, Internet-amplified hyperbole, misinformation and finger-pointing, we do well to remember the value of nimble diplomacy and deep learning. Our future may well depend on our remembrance of our past.

Patricia Pearson is an authour and journalist, and is the grand-daughter of Lester B. Pearson. She delivered this speech at the above noted event in Ottawa.


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