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Canadian History for Kids: Georges Vanier

This year marks the 100th anniversary of the outbreak of World War One and Canadian History for Kids have assembled 31 remarkable stories about incredible people, places and events which helped shape our amazing nation.

A grateful nation never forgets a hero.

He rose to the position of Canada 19th Governor General, but at the beginning of the First World War, Georges-Philéas Vanier, was a young man looking to offer his service to both King and Country.

Georges Vanier was born on April 23, 1888 in Montreal, Quebec. In 1911 he was called to the Quebec bar and shortly thereafter began practicing law. In 1915 he enlisted in the Canadian Army. He became a recruiter and helped organize Canada’s first French-Canadian volunteer unit, the 22nd Battalion of the Canadian Expeditionary Force, also called the Vingt-deuxième Régiment or the VanDoos.

In 1918, as an officer with the VanDoos, he was leading an attack at Chérisy, France, when he was shot in the chest and both legs, losing his right leg. While recovering he demanded to remain in France. He was awarded the Military Cross twice; once in 1916 and another in 1919. He was also awarded the Distinguished Service Order in 1919.

In 1920 the VanDoos were proclaimed “Royal” by King George V and renamed Royal 22e Régiment. Georges Vanier commanded the VanDoos from 1926 to 1928.

In 1928 he was appointed to Canada’s delegate to what was then called the League and Nations (now called United Nations). He served as Canada’s representative to the United Nations until 1953.

In 1939, he also became Canada’s Minister to France and later Canada’s first Ambassador to France until 1953.

During the War years Georges Vanier and his wife, Pauline, became very concerned with the displaced people and fought to have changes made in Canada’s refugee and immigration policy. From 1947 to 1953, almost 200,000 European refugees settled in Canada. One of their five children, Jean Vanier, continued the spiritual and humanitarian tradition of their parents establishing The Ark, a co-operative self-help community which helps those with mental handicaps to live full and productive lives.

In 1959, Georges Vanier was appointed Canada’s 19th (and first French-Canadian) Governor General by Queen Elizabeth II. He served as Governor General until his death on March 5, 1967.

During his time as Governor General he recognized such achievements as the Vanier Award for Outstanding Young Canadians for youth community involvement, the Vanier Medal of the Institute of Public Administration of Canada in 1962 for public service, and the Vanier Cup for sports achievements.

The Vanier Cup was first awarded in 1965 to the winner of the Canadian College Bowl, the national football championship of the Canadian Interuniversity Athletics Union (now called Canadian Interuniversity Sport).

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