Carleton Mourns Loss of the ‘Children’s Senator’
January 30, 2023
Former Senator Landon Pearson, a tireless advocate for children’s rights and the founder of a centre at Carleton University dedicated to their well-being, has passed away at 92.
Pearson, who served in Canada’s Red Chamber from 1994 to 2005, launched the Landon Pearson Resource Centre for the Study of Childhood and Children’s Rights at Carleton in 2006 — a pivotal gathering place for researchers, scholars, policymakers, practitioners, teachers, students and other members of the country’s children’s rights community.
She remained an active member of the centre and chaired its advisory board, even after her 90th birthday in November 2020, championing the vision that every child in Canada should grow up aware of their rights and responsibilities and empowered to exercise them within a receptive and respectful society.
Virginia Caputo, associate professor and director of the Landon Pearson Resource Centre, said Pearson extended friendship to many colleagues at Carleton and made a profound impact on many lives. “In a word, Landon Pearson was a remarkable human being, a tireless and dedicated leader who was kind, humble, curious, inquisitive, and who treated everyone with respect and dignity, especially children.”
“Landon Pearson has helped foster a culture of respect for children and young people in Canada and around the world,” Carleton President Benoit-Antoine Bacon said during an event to celebrate her 90th birthday. “We thank her for amplifying children’s voices and for honouring the diversity of their unique lived experiences.
“Carleton’s Landon Pearson Resource Centre for the Study of Childhood and Children’s Rights is a unique and important entity that truly embodies our core value of building a better future together.”
“Landon is one of the best appointments that I ever made in my life,” former Prime Minister Jean Chrétien, who named her to the Senate, said at the same event. “You did a great job as a Senator and specialized in an area that was neglected by everybody, at least at that moment. It was a privilege to be able to move on things like that, which were neglected and needed to be improved. You are a great advocate for the cause.”
Pearson, who was married to and had five children with diplomat Geoffrey Pearson, the son of former Prime Minster and Carleton University Chancellor Lester B. Pearson, had extensive experience as a volunteer with a number of local, national and international organizations concerned with children before becoming a Senator.
She was the Vice-Chairperson of the Canadian Commission for the International Year of the Child in 1979, President and then Chair of the Canadian Council on Children and Youth from 1984 to 1990, and a founding member of the Canadian Coalition for the Rights of Children.
Pearson published a book about childhood in the former Soviet Union based on her years in the country with Geoffrey, who was the Canadian Ambassador to the USSR, and co-authored with Judy Finlay Tibacimowin: Gathering of Stories, a compilation of stories told by Indigenous Elders about their traditional childhood, with messages for their young grandchildren.
She was appointed to the Order of Canada in 2008 as an Officer for her work supporting the rights of children and youth throughout Canada.
In 2020, reflecting on the COVID-19 pandemic and challenges facing society, Pearson said, “I have a great-grandson, and by the time he reaches my age, it will be the year 2110. I have been trying to think of what the world will be like then and I have a fairly optimistic temperament, but I believe that we are at a fork in the road. One path is climate change and the sixth extinction. The other is that human ingenuity figures out a way.
“If we are able to chart a course to a more sustainable future, today’s children will be the ones who achieve it. This is a difficult period, but we will get through it. I’m optimistic because young people always make me feel that way. Children are driven by a sense of justice. I recall two girls standing up at the United Nations and saying: ‘We are not the problem, we are the solution.’ Children are not the ones who have messed this up, but they are the ones who will have solutions.”