On today’s date in 1964, members of then-prime minister Lester Pearson’s cabinet introduced a motion to Parliament to adopt the “Pearson Pennant,” his preferred but ultimately unsuccessful design for a new national flag.
Also known as the “sea to sea” flag, the design was created by artist Alan Beddoe and featured blue borders on both the left and right sides plus three conjoined red maple leaves on a white field in the centre.
Born in 1897 in the township of York, Ont. (now a part of Toronto), Pearson was a Canadian professor, historian, civil servant, statesman, diplomat, soldier and politician.
In 1957, he won the Nobel Prize for Peace in for organizing the United Nations Emergency Force to resolve the Suez Canal Crisis and later served as the 14th prime minister of Canada from 1963-68. During that time, he served as the head of two back-to-back Liberal minority governments following elections in 1963 and 1965.
A NEW FLAG
During Pearson’s time as prime minister, his party’s minority government introduced universal health care, student loans, the Canada Pension Plan, the Order of Canada and the new flag of Canada.
Despite Pearson’s penchant for the “Pennant,” his preferred design wasn’t chosen. Instead, the country’s current red-and-white maple leaf flag was chosen and proclaimed by Queen Elizabeth II on Jan. 28, 1965. It was raised for the first time in an inauguration ceremony on Parliament Hill on Feb. 15 of that year.
Pearson also convened the Royal Commission on Bilingualism and Biculturalism, and as prime minister, he struggled to keep the country from entering the Vietnam War. In 1967, his government passed Bill C-168, which abolished capital punishment in Canada by restricting its application to a small number of capital offences that were never used and later abolished fully in 1976.
These accomplishments – together with his groundbreaking work at the United Nations and in international diplomacy – places Pearson among the most influential Canadians of the 20th century.
Pearson was commemorated on a six-cent stamp (Scott #591) issued by Canada’s Post Office Department (now Canada Post) on Oct. 17, 1973, as part of its Caricature Definitives issue.
On Jan. 17, 2000, Canada Post honoured the former prime minister once again, this time on a 46-cent stamp commemorating his involvement in the creation of an international force to maintain peace in the Middle East during the Suez Crisis.
Pearson died in his Ottawa home on Dec. 27, 1972.