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France seeks Canadian Second World War veterans to award Legion of Honour

Toronto -

Are you a Canadian Second World War veteran who fought in France? If so, you may be entitled to receive France's highest distinction.

Ahead of Remembrance Day, the consulate general of France in Vancouver has put out a call for Canadian veterans who took part in the Dieppe Raid in 1942 or the battles to liberate France in 1944 as they may be eligible for France's National Order of the Legion of Honour.

The Dieppe Raid in August 1942 had been an unsuccessful attempt by the Allies to get a foothold in France. Nearly 5,000 out of the 6,000 Allied troops that participated in the operation were Canadian. More than half of these men were killed, wounded or captured, and the operation ended in a Nazi victory.

However, the lessons learned at Dieppe that set the foundation for the D-Day invasion of Normandy. On June 6, 1944, 14,000 Canadian soldiers stormed the beaches of Normandy alongside Allied troops, setting the stage for the liberation of France.

Veterans who participated in these battles could be eligible to receive the France's highest order of merit.

"It's essential to pay tribute, to recognize their commitment, express our gratitude to them so that we don't forget their commitments," Nicolas Baudouin, the French consul general in Vancouver, told in a phone interview on Tuesday.

The Legion of Honour was first created by Napoleon Bonaparte in 1802 for civilians and military personnel who have demonstrated "eminent service" for France.

"Without any consideration of your background, your military ranks … if you show bravery and commitment, you're entitled to be awarded the Legion of Honour," said Baudouin. "The only condition is that that you actually serve the French Republic, and that's what these Canadian veterans did when they landed in France."

In 2014, coinciding with the 70th anniversary of D-Day, the French government launched a campaign to identify and award surviving Canadian veterans who participated in the liberation of France. Similar campaigns also took place for American, British and New Zealand veterans.

So far, 1,154 Canadian veterans have received the honour, although Baudouin said it's unclear how many eligible veterans are remaining. The most recent Canadian recipient was 98-year-old D-Day veteran Joseph Novak of Whitehorse, who received the honour last month.

If you or someone you know who is eligible, Baudouin said you can contact your nearest French consulate, reach out to Veterans Affairs Canada or get in touch with your local Royal Canadian Legion branch. Top Stories

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