Canada’s Indigenous and military leaders paid tribute and offered condolences to the family of a Juno Beach veteran of the Second World War, who also advocated for Indigenous veterans after the war ended.
“Today, Canada lost a great First Nations leader in Philip Favel,” Assembly of First Nations National Chief Perry Bellegarde tweeted Sunday.
“A Juno Beach Veteran and a lifelong advocate, Philip was a beacon of hope for many,” Bellegarde added.
Favel was 98.
Born in Prongua, Sask., which is part of the Sweetgrass First Nation, Favel worked as a labourer on his father’s farm before joining the Canadian Army in May 1942 and training as a driver in Maple Creek, Sask.
His biography on the Department of National Defence website says he served overseas from August 1943 to July 1945 and trained in England before being sent to France for the Allied invasion of Europe.
Favel was part of an organization that moved supplies to the fighting troops, the biography said, and he frequently went to and from the front lines to supply the troops with ammunition and gas.
In addition to his service at Juno Beach, where Canadians went ashore on D-Day, Favel served in Belgium, Holland 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 National Defence biography notes.
“Mr. Favel earned the French Legion of Honor Medal for not only helping an injured person but also for taking care of two children while on task,” it adds.
When the fighting ended in Europe, Favel volunteered to go to Japan, but the war ended before he could serve there, and he was released from the military on Nov. 21, 1945.
Chief of the Defence Staff Admiral Art McDonald offered the military’s condolences to Favel’s family and the Sweetgrass First Nation on Sunday, while Defence Minister Harjit Sajjan noted Favel’s dedication earned him numerous medals.
“Upon release from the military, he advocated for fair & just compensation for Indigenous Veterans who fought alongside their Canadian brothers & sisters but were not treated the same when they came home,” Sajjan said in a tweet.
Last Nov. 8, on Indigenous Veterans Day, Favel was honoured in a ceremony at the Canadian War Museum and a portrait of him was unveiled.
His granddaughter, Nadine Favel, who represented him at the ceremony, said her grandfather watched the event from his home on the Sweetgrass First Nation.
“I’ve always been proud of him and the person that he is. (I’m) proud to be a Favel because of him,” she said at the time.