This Week in History


Canadian wins Nobel Peace Prize

This story was initially published in 1999

On October 14, 1957, Lester Bowles Pearson won the Nobel Peace Prize for helping to resolve the 1956 Suez Crisis and developing the United Nations Emergency Force, otherwise known as the peacekeepers. He would later become Canada's prime minister.

Pearson accepting Nobel Peace Prize<br>from Gunnar Jahn - 1957

Pearson accepting Nobel Peace Prize
from Gunnar Jahn - 1957

© LAC / PA-114544

Pearson had a long career with the Department of External Affairs. He was the Ambassador to the United States in Washington, Under Secretary for Foreign Affairs, and finally Secretary of State for that Department in 1948. A chief architect of the post-war order, Pearson was involved in the creation of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) and the United Nations (UN).

In 1956, a hostile situation arose in the Middle East when the Egyptian President nationalized the mainly British-owned Suez Canal. Western Europe did not want Egypt to control the important passage between the Arabian oil fields and the Mediterranean. Taking matters into their own hands, Israel, France and Britain attacked Egypt. It was amidst this turmoil that Pearson suggested the formation of an international peacekeeping force.

Pearson with Nobel Peace Prize - 1957

Pearson with Nobel Peace Prize - 1957
© LAC / C-94168 / Duncan Cameron

For pioneering the innovative peacekeeping role for soldiers and for resolving the Suez Crisis, Pearson was awarded the 1957 Nobel Peace Prize. He hoped to use the UN peacekeepers in troubled areas to supervise cease-fires and create buffer zones between opponents. Dividing the two enemies would help negotiations to take place. A peaceful settlement, rather than a victory, was the ultimate goal.

In 1963 Liberal Lester B. Pearson became Canada's 14th prime minister. He implemented some key social legislation such as the Canada Pension Plan, universal health insurance and a new immigration act. Pearson also introduced a new Canadian flag, replacing the Union Jack with the Maple Leaf. Of equal importance were the creation of the Royal Commission on Bilingualism and Biculturalism, and Pearson's efforts to strengthen relations with Quebec by allowing the province to create its own pension plan, and opt out of other governmental programs. Pearson retired from office in 1968.

Lester B. Pearson was designated of Canadian historical importance by the Historic Sites and Monuments Board.

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