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Indigenous Veterans Day: Remembering D-Day veteran Philip Favel


Philip Favel is among the tens of thousands of First Nations, Métis and Inuit soldiers who served in the Canadian Armed Forces and are being remembered on National Indigenous Veterans Day.

Favel enlisted in 1942, becoming one of more than 3,000 Indigenous recruits who signed up to fight for Canada during the Second World War. After the war, Favel became an advocate for fair compensation for Indigenous veterans.

Favel was born and raised in the Sweetgrass First Nation in Saskatchewan and had worked as a labourer on his father's farm prior to enlisting. His father, William Favel, had also served in the First World War.

Favel was also a survivor of Delmas Residential School. His daughter, Bernadette, only has vague memories of his stories from that time.

"He never used to talk about it,” she told CTV News. “All they said, they were treated like animals. That’s all they said. They weren’t even allowed to talk Cree."

As a driver for the Canadian Armed Forces, Favel delivered ammo and other supplies to the front lines of the European theatre, serving in France, Belgium the Netherlands and Germany.

"On numerous accounts, his truck’s windshield was hit and smashed but Mr. Favel never stopped or turned back. He always stayed focused on the task at hand," the Department of National Defence says in his online biography.

On D-Day in 1944, he landed on Juno Beach in Normandy. For his bravery, France awarded him the National Order of the Legion of Honour, the country's highest order of merit.

When the Nazi threat was defeated, Favel was a survivor once again, but his fight wasn’t over. Favel's next was battle was as an activist, fighting for equal benefits for Indigenous veterans.

Upon returning home, Indigenous veterans were not given the same access to grants and loans for land as well as other benefits that their white counterparts had.

In June 2002, the federal government offered $39 million in compensation for Indigenous veterans, totalling $20,000 per living veteran or their spouse.

Favel died in January at the age of 98. He died a few months after a portrait of him was unveiled at the Canadian War Museum in Ottawa. His daughter and granddaughter, Esther, still haven't seen it in person due to the pandemic.

"I can't wait to go see his painting," Esther told CTV News. "I'd love to go. We were supposed to go, but COVID kind of stopped everything, but we'll go eventually."

For Bernadette, this upcoming Remembrance Day will be especially sombre, as it will be the first one without her father.

"It's going to be a sad feeling. I know I can’t bring him back to Earth for Remembrance Day. I know that he’s gone," she said.

While Favel spent much of his life fighting, he used his platform later in life to encourage an end to conflict.

"People will have to get together, regardless who they are, what colour they are. They will have to work together, in order to live in peace all over the world," Favel said in 2004. Top Stories

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