Skip to content


The Late Honourable Landon Pearson, O.C.

March 28, 2023

Hon. Marc Gold (Government Representative in the Senate) [ + ]

Honourable senators, I rise today to pay tribute and to remember the life of former senator Landon Pearson, an Officer of the Order of Canada. I would also like to welcome Senator Pearson’s family to the chamber, and to express my sincerest condolences to her family.

Senator Pearson was appointed to the Senate in September 1994 by then-prime minister Jean Chrétien, and served in this chamber for over 11 years. She was, above all, an ardent children’s rights advocate, and a pioneer in bringing these issues to the attention of the public.

Senator Pearson’s tireless work advocating for children’s rights began long before her appointment to the Senate. In 1974, she co-founded Children Learning for Living, a prevention program focused on children’s mental health, located in Ottawa. She was involved in community-based programs such as Mobile Creches for Working Mothers’ Children, a child care service for the children of nomadic construction workers in New Delhi and Mumbai.

In 1979, she made a significant contribution as vice-president of the Canadian Commission for the International Year of the Child and as editor of the commission’s report entitled For Canada’s Children: National Agenda for Action.

In 2006, after retiring from the Senate, she went on to found the Landon Pearson Resource Centre for the Study of Childhood and Children’s Rights.

Reflecting on her work with children in Mexico, India and the Soviet Union, as well as her experience with the Ottawa school system and as a mother of five children, Senator Pearson explained to the chamber how these experiences convinced her “. . . of the indivisibility of childhood and of the global nature of children’s issues.”

In their advocacy, our colleagues Senator Moodie and Senator Miville-Dechêne continue in this “Pearsonian” tradition. But, as you well know, many issues remain pressing. According to Amnesty International, over 61 million children do not attend primary school, an estimated 150 million children are sexually assaulted every year and at least 330,000 children are held in immigration detention in 80 countries every year.

As we remember Senator Pearson, let us be reminded of the need to continue to make these issues more visible and — to quote again from Senator Pearson — that “we all have a stake in the well-being of the world’s children.” Thank you, colleagues.

Hon. Scott Tannas [ + ]

Honourable senators, let me begin by quoting one of my predecessors, Senator Joyce Fairbairn. She said in this chamber:

. . . throughout history there are times when the stars and the planets are aligned to produce spectacular events. I would say that one of those occasions was the day Landon Pearson was summoned to the Senate on September 15, 1994.

Colleagues, Canada has lost one of its strongest advocates for the rights of young people in the form of the Honourable Landon Mackenzie Pearson. During her time in this place, she held the very distinguished title of being “the Children’s Senator” for her tireless advocacy for the rights and well-being of young people in Canada and internationally.

She was the co-chair of the Special Joint Committee on Child Custody and Access that produced the report entitled For the Sake of Children, which interpreted the consequences of family breakdown from a new perspective: the children themselves. She was a Canadian representative at the United Nations World Summit for Children and the United Nations Special Session on Children — that was under two different prime ministers from different parties. She was also an adviser to the Minister of Foreign Affairs on the United Nations Committee on the Rights of the Child.

During her 11 years as a senator, she was described as an individual with sharp eyes and ears, a clear mind, a big heart and the ability to watch and learn. Her passion for children was described as constant, persistent and often dogged. She often said, “When one door closes, another opens,” which showed her commitment and dedication.

We offer our sincere sympathies to her children, grandchildren, great-grandchildren and to all children in Canada.

Hon. Jane Cordy [ + ]

Honourable senators, I am honoured to speak today to recognize our former colleague Senator Landon Pearson who passed away on January 28 at the age of 92.

In this place, we often deal with big ideas, and, sometimes, we deal with complicated, intricate and detailed legislation. We have each developed skills that allow us to examine such legislation because of fundamental building blocks set out for us in childhood. Our foundation as children is something that Senator Pearson recognized as important to shaping capable, interested and analytical adults. Children need our support, and they should be provided with opportunities to express their ideas and their opinions on matters that directly impact their lives. This was a principle that Senator Pearson strongly believed in and advocated for on behalf of children.

From 1984 to 1990, Landon served as the president and then the chair of the Canadian Council on Children and Youth. From 1989 to 1994, she was a founding member and the chair of the Canadian Coalition for the Rights of Children, which worked to promote the 1991 ratification and implementation of the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child. Former prime minister Jean Chrétien wisely appointed Landon to the Senate in September 1994. As Senator Tannas stated, it wasn’t long until she was known around the Hill as “the Children’s Senator.” In 1998, Prime Minister Chrétien appointed her as his personal representative to the United Nations Special Session on Children.

There are only a few of us left here today who served with her in this place, and, honourable senators, it is impossible to forget her compassion and love for children. Senator Pearson was the driving force behind the original idea for the Senate to host an annual event to celebrate National Child Day. Hundreds of children have had the chance to attend these special annual celebrations over the years. Held in this chamber, the celebrations have been a joy to attend for both children and senators alike. After Landon’s retirement, former senators Terry Mercer and Jim Munson took over for her as hosts, and they were fond of saying how it took two senators to try to replace her. She would serve in the Senate for 11 years, retiring in 2005. Landon Pearson’s work with children would not end with her retirement from this place. In 2006, she helped establish the Landon Pearson Resource Centre for the Study of Childhood and Children’s Rights at Carleton University.

Colleagues, Senator Pearson was a lifelong, passionate advocate for children and youth. It was truly her life’s work. On news of her passing, former Senator Munson and former Senator Mercer both reached out to me to share their condolences with the Pearson family.

Senator Munson wrote:

Terry Mercer and I were her disciples. Landon was actually the one who dragged me into the Senate when I was sworn in. Under her guidance, Terry and I hosted National Child Day after her retirement. We used to say, only half-jokingly, to her that it took two men to do her job. She was my hero in the Senate.

Senator Mercer expressed similar sentiments. He wrote:

Canada has lost a true hero. What a legacy Landon has left behind. When I was appointed to the Senate, Landon was one of the first to take me under her wing. She guided and mentored me, especially in our work for children. She was truly a great woman.

Honourable senators, please join with me to celebrate a great Canadian — a beloved Canadian — who lived a long and full life, and who did so much to elevate the often-overlooked voices of children and young people. It was an honour and a privilege to have worked with her.

On behalf of myself and the Progressive Senate Group, I wish to express our most heartfelt condolences to the family and friends of my former colleague and friend Landon Pearson. Thank you.

Hon. Yonah Martin (Deputy Leader of the Opposition) [ + ]

Honourable senators, I rise today to pay tribute to a remarkable individual and former senator, the late Honourable Landon Pearson, who was known to many as “the Children’s Senator.” From 1994 to 2005, she served in the Senate of Canada, representing Ontario. In 1996, she was named an adviser on children’s rights to the Minister of Foreign Affairs, and, in 1998, she became the personal representative of Prime Minister Chrétien to the 2002 United Nations Special Session on Children.

Her dedication and tireless work earned her recognition across Canada and around the world. She was awarded the Canada’s Volunteer Award and honorary doctorates, and was among 1,000 women worldwide nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize for her work on behalf of children. In 2008, Landon Pearson was appointed to the Order of Canada as an Officer for her exceptional work supporting and advocating for the rights of children and youth. As a senator, she initiated National Child Day on the Hill — a day of celebration for children and the organizations and stakeholders that advocate for them.

Our former colleagues Senator Mercer, Senator Munson and Senator Cochrane took over her legacy of sponsoring the annual event, and I had the honour of joining as co-sponsor of this important annual tradition after Senator Cochrane retired. Presently, Senator Moodie is leading the way. National Child Day on the Hill is a wonderful legacy that she has left behind — one that continues to reflect her belief that children deserve a chance to flourish, to be children and to have their own voice. She truly is a champion for the voices of children and youth, and will forever remain “the Children’s Senator” of Canada.

Another legacy that she leaves behind is the Landon Pearson Resource Centre for the Study of Childhood and Children’s Rights, which opened in 2006. The centre houses Canada’s largest catalogued collection of children’s rights materials, including Landon Pearson’s personal library comprising over 14,000 documents related to her long history as a children’s rights advocate. In her own words, “Every child is a new chance for the whole human race.”

To her family, please know that her legacy lives on — and the impact she had, and will continue to have, on the lives of so many children and families is also part of her legacy. On behalf of the Conservative caucus, the official opposition in the Senate, we offer our deepest condolences and sympathies.

Honourable senators, please join me in honouring the life of the late Honourable Landon Pearson. May she rest in peace.

Hon. Rosemary Moodie [ + ]

Honourable senators, I rise today to pay tribute to a remarkable Canadian, former senator Landon Pearson.

Former Senator Pearson — “the Children’s Senator” — dedicated her life to advocating for children and youth, both here in Canada and around the world. For nearly seven decades, she has led the way on children’s rights, and has transformed how children are viewed — not just here in Canada, but around the globe. Her work as a champion for children began long before her time in the Senate. As you have heard, she served as the vice‑chair of the Canadian Commission for the UN International Year of the Child and chaired the Canadian Council on Children and Youth. She was a founding member and chairperson of the Canadian Coalition for the Rights of Children from 1989 to 1994, when she was appointed here to the Senate.

As a senator she was increasingly focused on giving children the space to advocate for themselves and went on to advise both the Chrétien and Martin governments on children’s rights in Canada and abroad.

As we have heard, her retirement was not the end of her work, but a new chapter. Shortly after retiring and founding the Landon Pearson Resource Centre for the Study of Childhood and Children’s Rights, she continued her work. She has been an adviser and mentor for me and many other people in this space.

Colleagues, much of what I have just said is well known to you and much more can be said, but I can personally attest to her kindness, wisdom and work ethic. Even past the age of 90 years, she was unrelenting in her devotion to Canada’s children. I remember when we were recently on a program together and she was a panellist speaking. She ripped off her oxygen to present, and we had to say, “No, put it back on, please.”

Over her entire career, former Senator Pearson was a trusted voice across Canada. She was often the glue that pulled together actors from across the country on children’s rights, a space that can be notoriously fragmented. She brought credibility and reputation. She carried weight because everybody knew she was the real deal.

She was a great senator and a great Canadian, and she leaves a great legacy. May it be said of all of us who sit in this chamber that we strove to give our time and our voice to those who needed it most, and that like our dear colleague Landon we gave all measure of true devotion to all Canadians.

To her children Hilary, Michael and Patricia and to her other family, friends and to her community, our deepest condolences. Know that you do not mourn her loss alone. Thank you.

Hon. Andrew Cardozo [ + ]

Honourable senators, it is indeed my honour to pay tribute to one of the Senate’s legendary members, the Honourable Landon Pearson.

I am glad that we are being treated to some sounds from her great-granddaughter, who, like her great-grandmother, will be heard when she wants to be heard.

I have had the very good fortune to count Landon Pearson as a friend and as a mentor.

For many years, I had spoken of her as an outstanding senator who used her role in this place to advance the cause of her life, the rights of the child, and in so doing brought great honour to this institution.

Allow me to share my personal memories.

Some 10 years ago when a group of us were beginning the Pearson Centre, we went to meet with her to seek the family’s support in naming the think tank after her father-in-law, Lester B. Pearson, one of our most consequential prime ministers. From day one she had been a great supporter, adviser and participant in our work. I want to share one aspect of our friendship.

Colleagues, you will have all watched the TV series, “The Crown,” where the Queen would have regular meetings with British prime ministers. Well, I considered Landon Pearson to be our sort-of Governor General at the Pearson Centre, as she was indeed the senior keeper of the Lester B. Pearson flame. We would meet regularly, although our get-togethers were never as crusty as those between the Queen and Margaret Thatcher.

Over the years, our get-togethers would begin with a discussion about the Pearson Centre and our priorities of the time, and gradually the conversation would shift to what was in the news domestically and globally. Sometimes she might pull out a clipping from a recent newspaper article, opine on it or ask me my opinion, and other times she might show me an important artifact from the Pearson era which she was about to dutifully donate to Library and Archives Canada or the Canadian Museum of History.

I always marvelled at those conversations because she would be discussing issues both in their very contemporary reality and in their historical sense, drawing from the front-row seat to Canadian history she had had throughout her adult life.

Colleagues, I want to draw to your attention two wonderful webinars that are on the Pearson Centre’s YouTube channel, called “Pearson TV.” One was recorded in April of last year, marking the one-hundred-and-twenty-fifth birthday of Lester B. Pearson, where Landon Pearson is in conversation with Canada’s Ambassador to the United Nations, Bob Rae.

The other webinar was recorded at the time of her ninetieth birthday, three years ago. It is a conversation with two of her granddaughters, Lucy and Rachel, each accomplished in their own careers. What you will see is a window into wonderful, warm conversations about family, children’s rights, domestic and global affairs and Canada, and you will marvel at one of the great Canadian families of our time who are deeply dedicated to public service.

Colleagues, I’m sure her many friends will share my view that we have all benefited enormously from the friendship of a great public servant and an outstanding senator.

Honourable senators, family and friends, it is a humbling honour as well as a significant responsibility and magnificent privilege to have been one of the thousands and thousands of fortunate friends, mentees and collaborators of the spectacular senator we are all rising to recognize today.

I won’t repeat any of my or your previous tributes today. Rather, as Landon taught us so well, I want to take this opportunity to give voice to those who knew her best, those who inspired her intellectual curiosity, incomparable rigour and insistence on promoting and representing the rights and interests of children — her beloved Hilary, Anne, Michael and Patricia.

These are their words, and I am honoured to be their messenger in this place:

Mum’s Senate appointment came for her at exactly the right moment… she had accumulated many years of education, research, volunteer advocacy and experience working with children and youth in Canada and other parts of the world. She was ready to put all of this knowledge and experience into action…to mobilize concerted commitment in Canada to protect and give voice to children and youth within a framework of human rights…children’s rights.

No question… she had an agenda!

She believed in the role of the Senate as Canada’s second legislative chamber... one that has the opportunity to reflect, revise and improve on Canada’s statutory and legal frameworks for the protection of rights.

The Senate gave her a platform and she made unique and productive use of it —

— and she taught many of us well.

She spoke for children —

— she spoke for all children —

— and brought them to the Chamber to speak with her. She believed in enabling children and youth to have their say on decisions and laws that directly affected them. In this she was far ahead of her time.

And she left many admirers in her wake… admirers of her diplomacy, her intelligence, her discipline, her willingness to work every lever she could on behalf of the children and youth she cared so much about. She was a model for future senators, women like her, with determination, commitment, courage and motivation to make change for social justice.

She made social justice, and she encouraged others to achieve and strive for social justice.

Thank you for your words and for inspiring each of us to emulate the light, life and legacy that was your mum.

Most especially, though, thank you to each of you and your children, her grandchildren, great-grandchildren, nieces, nephews and all those attached to your family for sharing this incredible woman — really, the dean, not just “the Children’s Senator” but an example for all of us in this chamber. We are beyond grateful and so blessed with the contributions and memories that the Honourable Landon Pearson, Canada’s “Children’s Senator,” leaves us. Thank you.

Hon. Mobina S. B. Jaffer [ + ]

Honourable senators, I rise today to pay tribute to our former colleague and friend senator Landon Pearson and express my condolences to her family.

She was a fierce advocate for children’s rights throughout her life and was fondly referred to as “the Children’s Senator” during her tenure in the Senate from 1994 to 2005.

Former prime minister Jean Chrétien described Senator Pearson as “one of the best appointments that I ever made in my life.” He said she:

. . . did a great job as a Senator and specialized in an area that was neglected by everybody, at least at that moment.

Senators, I remember Landon as a highly intelligent and resourceful person who was also incredibly humble. Her niece Landon Mackenzie highlighted this humility when she described her as:

. . . “the most ordinary aunt you could have,” one whose lack of interest in cooking was family legend and whose absence of ego likely meant many people who met her had no idea of her accomplishments.

In the Senate, she endeavoured to end corporal punishment and sexual exploitation of children. On numerous occasions, she spoke out on the high rates of homelessness among young people coming out of government care and the grim reality of Indigenous children and families in remote communities.

Senator Pearson also represented Canada on the global stage. In 1996, she was named Advisor on Children’s Rights to the Minister of Foreign Affairs. In 1998, she became the Personal Representative of the Prime Minister to the 2002 United Nations special session on children.

Landon never stopped working. As Canada’s peace envoy, I saw her work hard even after she retired. I appeared on many panels with her when she was a senator and even after. I marvelled at her ethic of hard work and her passion for children.

Senator Pearson was a shining example of how this chamber can represent and advocate for the most vulnerable in our society. She absolutely excelled at that.

Today, there are countless children whose lives she has improved through her work. I will always remember Landon’s zeal to help children and continue to be grateful for the time I got to spend with her.

Landon, you were a wonderful friend and an inspiring colleague. Rest in peace, my friend.

The Hon. the Speaker [ + ]

Honourable senators, I would ask you to rise and join me in observing a minute of silence.

Back to top