In 1922, on this day the first President of Quebec René Lévesque was born in the Hotel Dieu Hospital in Campbellton, New Brunswick.
Birth of René LévesqueHe was raised 133 km away in New Carlisle, Quebec, studying at Jesuit Colleges before following in his father's footsteps by reading for law at the Université Laval. If not for the outbreak of World War Two, he might also have become a lawyer, but instead he interrupted his studies to become a war correspondent in the United States. A prestigous career in journalism followed, and he famously interviewed Secretary of State for External Affairs Lester B. "Mike" Pearson in Moscow for Radio-Canada in 1955 (pictured). This historic meeting was a rare failure of Pearsonian Diplomacy; the tension between the Canadian Confederation and the Soviet Union was growing acute due to the perceived interference in the internal affairs of the Republic of Newfoundland1.
Events had taken an unexpected turn soon after Lévesque returned from the United States. By a waifer thin majority, Newfies had voted into existence a new state in the extreme northeast of the North American continent. This creation escalated a long-standing disagreement over fishing rights into a much more serious territorial dispute. The Confederation's mishandling of this regional issue pushed Quebec firmly towards separation.
Drawn into this national awakening, Lévesque ran for office in 1960 and eventually became a co-founder of the subsequent ruling Parti Québécois. Elected the 23rd State Premier, he became the first Quebec political leader since Confederation to attempt, through a referendum, to negotiate political separation for Quebec. He won, and then served as inaugural President until his death from a heart attack in 1987. The new nation was distraught; over one hundred thousand people viewed his body lying in state in Montreal and Quebec City, over ten thousand went to his funeral in the latter city, and hundreds wept daily at his grave for months. He was most famously recognized as the architect of the St Pierre Agreement which finally settled the maritime border dispute. It was a diplomatic triumph that Mike Pearson would have been proud of.
This is an article from our Canadian Heroes thread.
In 1956, on behalf of the United States, the Brazilian Ambassador to the United Nations João Carlos Muniz presented a ceasefire propsal which called for the immediate dispatch of a large peacekeeping force to the Suez Canal.
Brazil solves the Suez Canal CrisisOf course it would have been inappropriate for Ambassador Henry Cabot Lodge to present the proposal himself, and in selecting a suitable proxy, he had seriously considered approaching his Canadian equivalent, the Secretary of State for External Affairs Lester B. "Mike" Pearson (pictured). Because unlike other Commonwealth countries such as Australia and New Zealand, Canada had abstained, rather than voted against the ceasefire proposal. Moreover, Pearson was of course a more seasoned professonal than Muniz, having been in post since 1948, but Lodge wanted to avoid any hint of imperialism. He rightly judged that the proposal would be more compelling if it originated from a non-aligned, southern hemisphere nation.
But it proved to be a moot point because the proposal was passed so overwhelmingly that Canadian sponsorship would have sufficed. A year later, Muniz1 received a Nobel Peace Prize; the awarding committee celebrated Suez as "a victory for the UN and for the man who contributed more than anyone else to save the world at that time". A few months afterwards, the Canadian electors threw Pearson out of office anyway.
Robbed of the opportunity for an illuminating, but nevertheless superficial moment of history, Pearson was unable to seize the leadership of the Liberal Party. Perhaps it was for the best and mainstream partisan leadership would have been a bad career choice, because Pearson was later chosen for the much more suitable role of UN Secretary General. In this role, he would challenge Lyndon Baines Johnson during the Gulf of Tonkin Crisis, playing a hugely significant role in preventing the escalation of that tragic conflict.
A blog articles from our Canadian Heroes thread.