On today’s date in 1964, former prime minister Lester Pearson unveiled the “Pearson Pennant” – his preferred but ultimately unsuccessful design for a new national flag of Canada.
Born in the township of York, Ont. (now a part of Toronto) as Lester Bowles Pearson, he was a Canadian professor, historian, civil servant, statesman, diplomat, soldier, and politician.
Pearson won the Nobel Prize for Peace in for organizing the United Nations Emergency Force to resolve the Suez Canal Crisis. He was the 14th Prime Minister of Canada from April 22, 1963 to April 20, 1968, during which he served as the head of two back-to-back Liberal minority governments following elections in 1963 and 1965.
During Pearson’s time as Prime Minister, his Liberal minority governments introduced universal health care, student loans, the Canada Pension Plan, the Order of Canada, and the new flag of Canada.
Pearson also convened the Royal Commission on Bilingualism and Biculturalism, and he struggled to keep Canada out of the Vietnam War. In 1967, his government passed Bill C-168, which abolished capital punishment in Canada de facto by restricting it to a few capital offenses for which it was never used and which themselves were abolished 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 featured on a dark red six-cent stamp (CS Scott # 591) on Oct. 17, 1973 as part of Canada Post’s Caricature Definitives issue. Printed by the British American Bank Note Company, the stamp has general tagging along two opposite sides.
Then on Jan. 17, 2000, Canada Post featured Pearson on a 46-cent stamp commemorating the former prime minister’s involvement in the creation of an international force to maintain peace in the Middle East during the Suez Crisis. This earned him a Nobel Peace Prize and highlighted Canada’s role as a global peacekeeper. Printed by Ashton-Potter, this stamp was designed by Kiky Kambylis and based on an illustration by Thom Sevalrud.
Pearson died on Dec. 27, 1972, in his Ottawa home.