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Vanier was the son of Georges Vanier, a Canadian diplomat who led troops in both World Wars before serving as governor-general of Canada (1959-1967), and Pauline, the 1st non-political woman appointed to the Queen's Privy Council for Canada after his death. Both have been nominated for beatification in the Catholic Church. While Georges was diplomatically posted to France he fled to France when the Germans invaded and then returned after the war; young Jean enrolled at the Dartmouth Naval College (now the Britannia Royal Naval College)and served in World War II with the Royal Navy and then in 1949 joined the Royal Canadian Navy, but he resigned his commission in 1950 to study philosophy. In 1964 he invited 2 men with developmental disabilities to live in his own home in Trosly-Breuil, France, which led to the founding of L'Arche (The Ark), a private voluntary organization that promotes the creation and growth of homes, programs, and support networks for those with disabilities which now has 147 communities in 35 countries. (In 1974 his older sister Thérèse, the 1st female consultant in haematology at St Thomas' Hospital in London, founded Little Ewell, near Canterbury, the 1st L'Arche community in the UK.) In 1971 he co-founded Faith and Light, a charitable association that assists those with learning disabilities, and their friends and family, which has over 1,600 communities in more than 80 countries. In 2013 he received the Pacem in Terris Peace and Freedom Award established "to honor a person for their achievements in peace and justice, not only in their country but in the world" (6 of its honorees went on to win Nobel Peace Prizes) and in 2015 the Templeton Prize awarded each yaer to someone who "has made an exceptional contribution to affirming life's spiritual dimension, whether through insight, discovery, or practical works;" 5 of its recipients have also been Nobel laureates in the categories of Peace, Physics, and Literature, but the Templeton monetary value is constantly adjusted to exceed that of a Nobel.
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