Canada, a nation that stretches from sea to sea with rich natural resources, economic stability, and persisting technological developments, a prosperous nation fabricated by great leaders, one of them being Lester B.Pearson. He was a Canadian professor, historian, civil servant, statesman, diplomat, and politician who won a Nobel Prize for Peace in 1957 for resolving the Suez Canal crisis.1 He served as the 14th Prime Minister of Canada, in which his liberal minority government “left Canadians with a legacy of peacekeeping, humanitarianism and a strong sense of international responsibility that lives on to this day.”2 His introduction of the Royal Commission on Bilingualism and Biculturalism had brought sweeping changes to the language policy in Canada, making it the bilingual country it is today. The red and white flag in which Canada is recognized by, was introduced by Pearson, that “represents all the citizens of Canada without distinction of race, language, belief or opinion.”3 He is the most influential Canadian of the 20th century because he pursued social welfare programs, promoted peace, and the unity of a diverse ethnic nation.
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For five years in office, Pearson implemented programs long discussed, but never adopted. Among them included, but is not limited to Medical care, pensions, education, and a generalized “war on poverty”. The Medicare act expanded the policy of the Hospital Insurance and Diagnostic Services Act to universal health care. Under the terms of this act, all “insured persons” are entitled to receive “insured services” without copayment in which Ottawa would pay for 50% of provincial health costs.4 Prior to this point, doctors could charge what they wanted and bankruptcy to pay for health care was common.
The Nobel Foundation , Nobelprize. Last modified 2013. Accessed February 21, 2014. http:// www.nobelprize.org/nobel_prizes/peace/laureates/1957/pearson-bio.html. 2
Leung , John. Lester B. Pearson, the Greatest Canadian. Gautlet, , sec. Opinions, November 11, 2004. http://www.thegauntlet.ca/story/lester-b-pearson-greatest-canadian (accessed February 22, 2014). 3
Government of Canada, National Flag of Canada. Last modified August 30, 2013.Accessed February 24, 2014. http://www.pch.gc.ca/eng/1363356053583/1363342021822. 4
Government of Canada, Canada Health Care System (Medicare). Last modified December 9, 2012. Accessed February 22, 2014. http://www.hc-sc.gc.ca/hcs-sss/medi-assur/index-eng.php.
Towards social welfare in Canada is not limited to Medicare, but he also introduced the Canadian Pension Plan and Student loans during his time as Prime Minister. The Canadian Pension Plan is a social insurance program that provides pensions and benefits when contributors retire, become disabled, or die. When it was first established, contribution rates were set at 1.8% of an employee’s gross income per year, with a maximum contribution limit.5 Pearson also introduced student loans which allow easily accessible loans for post-secondary students who demonstrates financial need; it is a quick way of obtaining money. Without this type of credit, there would be fewer resources available to students or their families. Access to education for individuals can potentially end their family roots of poverty as education enables a greater opportunity for higher salaries and career opportunities. Lester B. Pearson has ultimately helped to improve the lives of Canadians because he introduced Medicare, the Canadian Pension Plan, and Student loans which represent the high point of the Canadian welfare state that generations of social thinkers had dreamed about.
Lester B. Pearson has established Canada’s reputation as a nation dedicated in ensuring world peace as demonstrated through his work at the United Nations, dealing with the Suez Crisis. The Suez Crisis is considered to be “one of the most controversial and convulsive episodes of the 20th century.”7 It was a diplomatic and military confrontation in 1956 that shattered the unity of the Western alliance, divided the Commonwealth, undermined the United Nations and threatened to bring the Middle East in a large-scale war. Although Canada had no direct economic, military or political involvement, Lester B. Pearson became one of the most influential figure in resolving this issue. He proposed the world’s first ever large-scale peacekeeping force, realizing that “Peace is far more than ceasing to fire.”8 He managed to The Nobel Foundation
Persuade the world assembly through his decades of experience and vast web of connections to make this a reality. A year later in 1957, Pearson was awarded with the Nobel Peace Prize, making him the first Canadian recipient of this award. As a result of his role in creating the United Nations first modern peacekeeping force, he pointed the way to the future of the United Nations sponsored peacekeeping missions that would become the proud centerpiece of Canada’s military and diplomatic activities around the world.
From the creation of the national flag of Canada to establishing the Royal Commission on Bilingualism and Biculturalism, Lester B. Pearson has helped to unite people of ethnic diversity in Canada. Pearson introduced the new national flag of Canada, which is truly “a symbol of the nation’s unity, for it, beyond any doubt, represents all the citizens of Canada without distinction of race, language, belief or opinion,” stated by the Honorable Maurice Bourget, Speaker of the Senate.9 However, the change came at the cost of an ensuing controversy over on the flag design, not whether there should be a new flag.
Where some individuals such as John Diefenbaker demanded that the flag should honor the “founding races” with the Union Jack, Pearson insisted on a design symbolizing allegiance to Canada and devoid of colonial association.10 One of the most influential commissions in Canadian history was the Royal Commission on bilingualism and Biculturalism which brought great changes to the federal and provincial language policy. Lester B Pearson superseded it to “inquire into and report upon the existing state of bilingualism and biculturalism in Canada” in response to the growing unrest among French Canadians in Quebec.11 As a result, this commission has made Canada the bilingual nation it is today. Through heated debates over changing the Canadian flag and superficial chaos of the Royal Commission
In conclusion, Lester B. Pearson is the most is the most influential Canadian of the 20th century because he pursued social welfare programs, promoted peace, and the unity of a diverse ethnic nation. During his term a Prime Minister, his Liberal minority government implemented programs that was a generalized “war on poverty” through his introduction of the Canadian Pensions Plan, Medicare, and student loans. As the president of the United Nations General Assembly, his solution of establishing a peacekeeping force has ultimately resolved the Suez Canal Crisis, in which he was awarded the Nobel Prize for Peace as a result. Pearson has also made Canada the bilingual nation that it is today through the Royal Commission on bilingualism and Biculturalism, in response to disputes in amongst French Canadians in Quebec. The national flag of Canada in which Canadians live under “represents all the citizens of Canada without distinction of race, language, belief or opinion.”13 Lester B. Pearson has left Canadians with a legacy of peacekeeping, humanitarianism and a strong sense of international responsibility that lives on to this day.