Sputnik Escalates the Cold War
Teaser Image

Saint-Laurent, Louis Stephen (1882–1973)

Canadian Liberal Party politician, minister of justice and attorney general (1941–1946, 1948), minister of external affairs (1946–1948), and prime minister (1948–1957). Born on 1 February 1882 in Compton, Quebec, Louis Saint-Laurent graduated from St. Charles College with a BA degree in 1902 and from Laval University with a law degree in 1905. He worked as a lawyer during 1905–1914, at which time he became a law professor at Laval University. He was actively involved in establishing the Canadian Bar Association and became Canada's preeminent expert on constitutional law.

Saint-Laurent entered Parliament in 1941 as a Liberal Party representative, and his second career as a politician proved as successful as his first. After holding a succession of important cabinet posts during 1941–1948, he was elected prime minister on 15 November 1948. He was not afraid of controversy and made many hard political decisions, the most difficult being Canada's participation in the Korean War (1950–1953).

Saint-Laurent was a fierce proponent of peace in the post–World War II era. In June 1950, when the United States urged United Nations (UN) involvement in Korea, Saint-Laurent was extremely hesitant to see Canada involved. At first he refused to act, but eventually he agreed to commit Canadian troops to the fight. Yet while soldiers were deployed, Saint-Laurent actively encouraged his secretary of state for external affairs, Lester B. Pearson, to continue efforts to settle the Korean War by diplomacy. Eventually, due in no small part to Canadian mediation efforts in the UN, a truce was signed in July 1953. Similarly, Saint-Laurent and Pearson were instrumental in ending the 1956 Suez Crisis, earning Pearson the Nobel Peace Prize. Domestically, the Saint-Laurent government followed progressive policies, creating new social welfare programs and expanding existing ones.

By 1957, however, Canadians sensed that the Liberal Party had grown stale, and it lost the 1957 elections. Saint-Laurent resigned his office in June 1957 and largely retired from politics. He died in Quebec City on 25 July 1973.

Maurice Williams and Takaia Larsen


Further Reading
Pickersgill, J. W. My Years with Louis St. Laurent: A Political Memoir. Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 1975.; Thomson, Dale C. Louis St. Laurent, Canadian. Toronto: Macmillan, 1967.
 

©2011 ABC-CLIO. All rights reserved.

  About the Author/Editor
  Introduction
  Essays
  A
  B
  C
  D
  E
  F
  G
  H
  I
  J
  K
  L
  M
  N
  O
  P
  Q
  R
  S
  T
  U
  V
  W
  Y
  Z
  Z
  Documents
  Images
ABC-cLIO Footer