On October 22nd 1981, His Excellency the Honorable Edward Schreyer, Governor-General of Canada presented this year’s Pearson Peace Medal to Lt-Gen. E.L.M. Burns.
“Tommy” Burns is one of the most distinguished generals in Canadian history. After service in both World Wars, he became Deputy Minister of Veterans’ Affairs. He was then transferred to the Department of External Affairs as a Special Staff of the Truce Supervision Organization in Palestine (1954-56) and was thus nearby when the Suez Crisis of 1956 occurred.
He was a natural choice to lead the UN Emergency Force (UNEF) as he did this with distinction from November of 1956 to December of 1959, showing skill not only as a commander but as a negotiator with national and local authorities in the area.
General Burns subsequently served for almost a decade as Canada’s principal disarmament negotiator (1960-68). Although quiet and unassuming, he made a powerful impact through his intellectual command of the complex issues and his tireless devotion to the cause. A President of the UNAC during the 1950s, he held the chair of Strategic Studies at the Norman Paterson School for International Affairs, Carleton University in 1969-75. General Burns is the author of numerous articles and books including Between Arab and Israeli (1962) General Mud (1970) and Defense in the Nuclear Age (1976) He continued to write books, articles and letters to advance both arms control and peacekeeping until his death.
1981 is the 25th Anniversary of the Suez Crisis and the establishment of UNEF. It is, therefore, highly fitting that this year’s medal should go to Canada’s most renowned peacekeeper – General Burns.
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