On today’s date in 1972, Canada’s 14th prime minister Lester Bowles Pearson died at the age of 75.
At the helm of Canada’s government for five years from 1963-68, Pearson never held a majority but nonetheless introduced innovative and long-lasting social initiatives, including universal health care, the 40-hour workweek (plus the now-standard two weeks of vacation) and the Canada Pension Plan.
Three of his cabinet ministers – Pierre Trudeau, John Turner and Jean Chretien – also later became prime ministers.
While Pearson fell into a coma on Dec. 27, 1972, after a short bout with liver cancer, his official biography lists his date of death as Dec. 28.
CANADA’S FIRST FLAG
In 1965, Pearson instituted Canada’s first official flag.
On June 30 of that year – a day before Canada Day – the new flag was shown on a stamp for the first time with the Post Office Department’s release of a five-cent commemorative (Scott #439).
Designed by Harvey Thomas Prosser with the image engraved by Allan Alexander Carswell and the lettering engraved by Gordon Mash, the stamp includes a hidden date near the base of the flag pole.
A career diplomat, Pearson received the Nobel Peace Prize in 1957 for his role in resolving the Suez Crisis with the creation of the United Nations Emergency Force (UNEF), a peacekeeping force.
In 1973, a year after Pearson’s death, the late prime minister was commemorated on a six-cent dark red stamp (Scott #591) issued by Canada’s Post Office Department (now Canada Post) as part of its “Caricature Definitives” series (SC #586-93a). Printed by the Canadian Bank Note Co., the stamp has general tagging along two opposite sides.
More recently, in 2000, Pearson was featured on a 46-cent stamp (SC #1825c) issued by Canada Post as part of its Millennium Collection. This stamp, which was printed by Ashton-Potter on Tullis Russell coated paper, was issued on a pane of four that celebrated Canadian humanitarians and peacekeepers (SC #1825).
The pane also commemorated Raoul Dandurand (SC #1825a); Pauline Vanier, the Red Cross and Elizabeth Smellie (SC #1825b); and Canada’s role in banning land mines (SC #1825d).
From Dec. 17, 1999 to March 17, 2000, Canada Post released 68 specially designed stamps as a series of 17 Millennium souvenir sheets, each depicting four different stamps.
“These bold 112-by-108 mm souvenir sheets frame four 36-by-48 mm stamps in thematic groupings that celebrate Canadian giants in fields as diverse as medicine, finance, peacekeeping and international development,” reads a press release issued by Canada Post for the extensive series.
“Lester B Pearson’s involvement in the creation of an international force to maintain peace in the Middle East during the Suez Crisis earned him a Nobel Peace Prize and highlighted Canada’s role as a global peacekeeper.”