CANADA HISTORY - Prime Ministers

Lester Pearson


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Lester B. Pearson was born in Ontario, the son of a Methodist minister, in a home which "was rich in everything but money". He was keenly interested in sports, playing both baseball and football, and he remained a sports fan. His nickname "Mike" goes back to the First World War. He had presented himself to a senior officer of the Royal Flying Corps. "Lester - that's not a very belligerent name for a man who wants to be a fighter pilot", the officer said. "We'll call you Mike". The name remained with him after that.

"one who has made a distinguished contribution to peace throughout the world". Lester B. Pearson was paid this tribute when he was awarded the Nobel Peace prize in 1957. The struggle on the Egyptian boarder had threatened to break into another world war. As Canada's Minister for External Affairs, he proposed the formation of an emergency peace force - a corps that could stand guard in the boarder between Egypt and Israel. It was the first time in history that a truly international military force had been organized for peacekeeping. It set the pattern for other peace forces of the United Nations, in other troubled, threatened areas of the world. Thirty-six days after receiving the Nobel Peace Prize (the first Canadian to be so honoured), Pearson was elected leader of the Liberal Party. He was elected Prime Minister in 1963.

As Prime Minister, he gained the highest political office in the country without really having sought it. "When I look back on my career," he has said, " the most amazing thing is that things just happened." Among the notable achievements of his administration has been the adoption of the Maple Leaf Flag.


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