Vanier is a name I knew as a girl: Georges Vanier, Jean’s father, was our Governor General from 1959 to 1967.
Jean Vanier had a privileged upbringing and served in the Royal Navy and the Royal Canadian Navy from age 17 to 20, and then resigned his commission in 1950. He obtained a PhD in philosophy but in 1964 he left academia, too, being drawn to an as-yet-unknown but more spiritual occupation.
Becoming aware of the number of people with development disabilities who were institutionalized, he invited two such men to live with him in Trosly-Breuil, France. Thus was born what became L’Arche, a community in which people with development disabilities live with those who care for them. As they say on their website:
Help us build a world where everyone belongs.
Today, there are 147 L’Arche communities in 35 countries.
He has received numerous awards, Canadian and international, and a 2004 CBC poll ranked him as #12 in a list of Greatest Canadians.