May 31, 1984 (32nd Parliament, 2nd Session)


Erik Nielsen

Progressive Conservative

Hon. Erik Nielsen (Yukon):

Mr. Speaker, many Canadians who knew General Pearkes in his later years as an outstanding Defence Minister in the Diefenbaker Government and Lieutenant Governor of British Columbia, were unaware that he was a genuine Canadian hero.
He left the Royal North-West Mounted Police of fabled memory, where he was serving in Whitehorse, Yukon, to go overseas in the First World War, where he won every available medal for bravery and distinguished service, from the Victoria Cross, Great Britain's highest honour, to the Croix de Guerre, and including the Military Cross, Distinguished Service Order, and the United States Order of Merit. He was wounded five times, and was mentioned four times in despatches.
Following the war, he continued his military career as General Staff Officer at Royal Military College, Director of Military Training at National Defence Headquarters, and Officer Commanding, Military District 13.
In World War II he gathered new laurels as Major General in command of the First Canadian Division overseas.
In 1945, at a time when most men are thinking of retirement, he undertook a new career in politics and soon demonstrated the same qualities of courage, devotion to his country, and rugged honesty which he had displayed on the field of battle.
As Minister of National Defence in the Diefenbaker Government he upgraded the weaponry and equipment of our fighting forces, recognized and respected the NATO and NORAD commitments to the full and, in spite of his army associations, regarded the air as the first line of defence.
Both the Arrow and Bomarc controversies erupted while he was head of the defence portfolio, and with wit, honesty and good humour, he bore criticism for decisions which were based on carefully considered recommendations of the Chiefs of Staffs based on their conviction that manned bombers were already obsolete.
When he left the defence portfolio to assume the Lieutenant Governorship of British Columbia in 1960, George Pearkes was undoubtedly grateful for the opportunity to leave the turbulence of politics.
May 31, 1984

Of him it can be said that virtually his entire life was one of service. His contribution to Canada and democracy was always one above and beyond the call of duty. He gave more than was expected, and always with a quiet modesty and good cheer that became a man who never turned his back on the foe, whether military or political.
The thoughts of this House remember him fondly and go out today to his wife, Blytha, his close friends and family who have suffered a loss comparable only to that suffered by the nation.
Of him, John Diefenbaker once said, "He was a great soldier." We can do no better here today than echo those words.

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