CORNWALLIS PARK - Alex Morrison, founder of the Lester B. Pearson Canadian International Peacekeeping Training Centre, is being honoured in a book by the former Prime Minister’s granddaughter Patricia Pearson.
He’s in good company.
The book, Profiles in Humanitarian Courage, is being launched Dec. 12 by Elizabeth Dowdeswell, Lieutenant Governor of Ontario at Queen’s Park, Toronto. Patricia Pearson had been commissioned by the United Nations Association in Canada to combine biographies of those who have been awarded the Pearson Peace Medal.
Morrison was presented the medal in 2002 after being nominated by Jean Jacques Blais, former Solicitor General under Pierre Trudeau and chair of the Pearson Peacekeeping Centre from 1994 to 2002 when he retired.
The nomination by Blais was backed in supporting letters, including a flattering letter from Stephen Lewis who knew Morrison as far back as 1984 when Morrison was Minister-Counsellor at the Canadian Mission to the United Nations and Lewis was the newly appointed Permanent Representative.
Stephen Lewis, later Special Envoy of the Secretary-General for AIDS in Africa, would go on to win the Pearson Peace Medal in 2004. In 2005 it was presented to Romeo Dallaire. Both men are included in Patricia Pearson’s book with Morrison, along with other notable winners such as the first recipient Paul-Emile Cardinal Leger, Flora MacDonald, and Lloyd Axeworthy. The latter also supported Morrison’s nomination.
“I value being included in the book as recipient of the Pearson Peace Medal,” said Morrison in an interview before the book launch. “I grew up during the golden days of Canadian diplomacy with Lester Pearson and others as people up to whom I looked.”
He said it’s good to see that over the 30 years or so the medal has been awarded it has been given to a wide range of recipients. “We all stand for trying to make the world a better place in which to live.”
Morrison said he looked forward to the ceremony.
“There will be a number of those who have the Pearson Peace Medal and I look forward to meeting those folks again and meeting some for the first time, and trading stories about our experiences,” he said.
Morrison was also pleased that Lester Pearson’s grand-daughter was involved.
“In a way his good works are being carried on by his grand-daughter who has chronicled the exploits and lives of those who were awarded the Pearson Peace Medal.”
As for the other’s included in the book, Morrison is humbled.
“It’s really an honour to be in the same company as Flora MacDonald,” he said. MacDonald was Canada’s first female Foreign Affairs minister and was known for her humanitarian work abroad. “We grew up in North Sydney, the same hometown. She was a few blocks down from where I was. When I was at the Pearson Peacekeeping Centre in Cornwallis, she would always come down for our dinners and sing some good old Gaelic songs.”
“Romeo Dallaire I’ve known for a number of decades. A very capable soldier, former senator, and one who keeps doing good works every day,” said Morrison. “Stephen Lewis was my boss in New York for four years when I was at the Permanent Mission of Canada to the United Nations in the 1980s. He is one who is truly interested in all aspects of humanitarian work and indeed overlooks the Stephen Lewis Foundation which deals with grandmothers in Africa. And the reason they deal with grandmothers in Africa is that the mothers are dead either by war or by disease. So there are a lot of good people there. And I look forward to seeing Stephen and Romeo at the reception.”
Morrison was the 23rd recipient of the medal that was presented to him in January 2002 by then Governor General Adrienne Clarkson who was also Honourary Patron of the UNA-Canada.
“Mr. Morrison served in the Canadian military for over thirty years, commanding troops in national and international assignments and serving in a United Nations peacekeeping force headquarters,” said the medal citation. “He ended his formal military service as Minister-Counsellor at the Canadian Mission to the United Nations, in which capacity he successfully upheld and protected Canada’s international role as a peacekeeper.”
Lewis described Morrison as an astonishingly effective exponent of Canada’s interests in the First Committee of the General Assembly, the committee that dealt exclusively with arms control and disarmament.
“Alex’s knowledge was encyclopedic, his work habits prodigious, his diplomatic skills legendary and his success notable,” said Lewis. “Canada had a formal Ambassador for Disarmament throughout the years of the mid-eighties with whom Alex worked closely, but everyone, whatever the delegation, readily acknowledged that it was Alex Morrison who drove and sustained the Canadian agenda.”
After his army career, Morrison served as the executive director and then the president of the Canadian Institute for Strategic Studies.
“Alex was also one of the key articulate proponents of the idea to establish a centre through which to inculcate the ideas and techniques which would sustain an evolving need to train the men and women who were increasingly being called upon to undertake peacekeeping operations in varied troubled situations around the world,” the medal citation read.
Morrison went on to become founder and first president of the Pearson Peacekeeping Centre at the former military base Cornwallis.
“Throughout the seven years of his term as president, Mr. Morrison established the centre as one of the finest in the world,” the medal citation reads. “In his vision for a ‘new peacekeeping partnership,’ Alex recognized also the vital role that non-military agencies have to play in peace operations. He was instrumental in imbuing this notion into the core of the centre’s teachings.”
Stephen Lewis, in his letter supporting Morrison for the Pearson Peace Medal all those years ago, had high praise for the boy from North Sydney.
“It was widely held among all of us – field and headquarters – that some of the best training, and curriculum, and preparation, and refresher courses lay with the Pearson Centre,” Lewis said. “It has been, perhaps, Alex’s finest hour. He did it in Lester Pearson’s name; he upheld Lester Pearson’s principles.”