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Lester B. Pearson

Born in Newtonbrook, Ontario, Lester Bowles Pearson (1897–1972) was a historian, diplomat and politician. A First World War veteran, Pearson graduated from the University of Toronto in 1919, held a fellowship at Oxford University from 1921 to 1925, receiving a B.A. in 1923 and an M.A. in 1925, and returned to the University of Toronto to teach history from 1924 to 1928. Pearson then joined the Department of External Affairs, where he excelled in prestigious posts in London and Washington, DC. He entered politics as Louis St-Laurent’s Minister of External Affairs in 1948. He received the Nobel Peace Prize in 1957 for his role in resolving the Suez Crisis through the creation of a United Nations peacekeeping force. Despite the Liberals’ 1957 federal election loss to John Diefenbaker’s Progressive Conservatives, Pearson remained in politics, becoming leader of the Liberal Party in 1958. In 1963 and 1965, Pearson’s Liberals formed minority governments, which were committed to such social programs as the Canada Pension Plan and medicare. But increasing provincial opposition and emerging economic problems had limited further central policy-making by the time Pearson retired from politics in 1968.

Photo: The Right Honourable Lester B. Pearson in his office

The Right Honourable Lester B. Pearson in his office soon after his minority Liberal government came to power in April 1963. One of his election campaign promises was that he would introduce health services legislation.
© Library and Archives Canada, PA-057934. Photographer: Duncan Cameron.

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    Date Created: March 31, 2010 | Last Updated: April 21, 2010