Childhood & Early Life
Pearson was born on 23 April 1897, in the town of Newtonbrook, Ontario, to Annie Sarah and Edwin Arthur Pearson, a Methodist minister. He was the brother of Vaughan Whitier Pearson and Marmaduke Pearson.
Pearson graduated from Hamilton Collegiate Institute in 1913 and entered Victoria College at the University of Toronto. He was elected to the Pi Gamma Mu for his outstanding scholastic performance in history and sociology.
He won a scholarship to study at St John's College, Oxford where he in excelled ice hockey, baseball and lacrosse. His ability to play baseball enabled him to play semipro with the Ontario Intercounty Baseball League.
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When World War I broke out in 1914, Pearson volunteered for service with the University of Toronto Hospital Unit, entered the Canadian Army Medical Corps and spent two years in Egypt and in Greece.
Transferred to the Royal Flying Corps, he survived a plane crash during his training maiden flight. In 1918, hit by a bus in London during a blackout, was discharged from service.
He received his B.A from the University of Toronto in 1919 and joined the Delta Upsilon Fraternity. He then spent a year working in Hamilton and Chicago, in the meat-packing industry.
With a Massey Foundation scholarship he studied in Oxford’ St John's College and completed his M.A. in 1925. He taught history at Toronto University, and coached the Varsity Blues Canadian football and ice hockey teams.
Topping the Canadian Foreign Service entry exam, he was assigned, from 1939 to 1942, as the second-in-command at Canada House, London where under High Commissioner Vincent Massey, he coordinated military supply and refugee problems.
He was posted to the Canadian Embassy in Washington. As the Canadian Ambassador to the U.S from 1945 to 1946, he played a significant part in establishing the United Nations and the NATO.
In 1948, Prime Minister Louis St. Laurent appointed him Secretary of State for External Affairs in the Liberal government. He won a seat in the Canadian House of Commons representing Algoma East, northern Ontario.
Pearson was elected leader of the Liberal Party at its leadership convention of 1958 after stepped down as party leader. Pearson's party was badly routed in the federal election which he had asked for.
Following the federal election of 1962, the Tories formed a minority government. Their indecision on accepting American nuclear warheads on Canadian BOMARC missiles and subsequent non-confidence motions on the issue, forced a national election.
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The Liberals came up five seats short of a majority. With the support of the New Democratic Party, Pearson formed a minority government, and became the Prime Minister in 1963.
Pearson signed the Canada-United States Automotive Agreement in 1965 which benefitted Canadian workers and consumers by dint of lowered prices and increased production creating thousands of jobs and resulting in higher wages.
While in office, he declined U.S. requests to send Canadian combat troops into the Vietnam War. On a visit to the U.S, he called for cessation of American bombing of Vietnam, thereby offending President. Johnson
In 1967, he introduced a discrimination-free points-based system which encouraged immigration to Canada, a forerunner of the system still in place today and also oversaw Canada's centennial celebrations before retiring.
In 1967, the French President, Charles de Gaulle, visited Quebec and delivered his famous Vive le Québec libre!”. An enraged Pearson made it clear that he was no longer welcome in Canada.
He retired as Prime Minister in 1968.
Post-retirement, he chaired the Commission on International Development. From 1970 to 1972 he chaired the Board of Governors of the International Development Research Centre. He Lectured and eventually became the Chancellor of Carleton University.
Despite heading a minority government he initiated major social programs, including universal health care, the Canada Pension Plan, and Canada Student Loans, a 40-hour work week, and a new minimum wage.
He set-up the Royal Commission on the Status of Women in 1967 and the Royal Commission on Bilingualism and Biculturalism. This helped in creating legal equality for women, and brought official bilingualism into being.
Awards & Achievements
In 1957, for his role in resolving the Suez Crisis, Pearson was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize. He created The United Nations Emergency Force, which is considered the father of the modern concept of peacekeeping.
He was appointed a Companion of the Order of Canada, and inducted into the Canadian Peace Hall of Fame in 2000 and he was the recipient of Honorary Degrees from 48 Universities.