By Peter Moon
CAMP LOON – The Junior Canadian Rangers who completed this year’s annual Camp Loon had a lot of fun but took home a lot of information about how to make their lives safer on the land and water and in their personal lifestyles, according to the Canadian Army officer who ran the camp.
“It was a very good camp,” said Captain Jason Dech, the camp’s commandant. “They learned a lot and they had a good time.”
The Junior Canadian Rangers is an army program for boys and girls aged 12 to 18 in remote and isolated communities across the Canadian North. There are more than 1,000 Junior Rangers in Northern Ontario. Camp Loon was attended by Junior Rangers from 25 First Nations from across the Far North of Ontario.
The camp was held in the bush north of Geraldton and provided a range of activities over 12 days that are not normally available in the Junior Rangers’ small home communities. They included specialized instruction in shooting, boating, mountain biking, driving all-terrain vehicles, and traditional arts and crafts.
“I’ve enjoyed it,” said Keianna Scott, 12, of Fort Albany, an isolated Cree community on the James Bay coast. “I liked shooting with a rifle. I didn’t shoot with a shotgun. I was afraid (the recoil) would hurt my shoulder. I liked archery a lot. Arts and craft was fun. I made wrist bracelets in arts and crafts to take home with me.”
She learned to ride an ATV safely and enjoyed the long off-road, cross country trip that followed the safety instruction.
She shared a tent and made friends with female Junior Rangers from four different First Nations. They plan on staying in touch through social media. “I’d like to come back next year,” she said.
Every Junior Ranger took home with them a certificate from St. John Ambulance after completing an emergency first aid course. They took with them a fanny pack containing a basic first aid kit. They also flew home with a lifejacket supplied by the Canadian Safe Boating Council.
“There’s a big emphasis on safety,” Captain Dech said. “But we also let them learn through experience and not just by talking about it. You can talk about rules and regulations and you can write tests about boating. But it doesn’t give a feeling of accomplishment until you actually drive a boat and do it yourself to drive those safety points home.”
For the first time, Camp Loon operated two satellite camps. At one a group of Junior Rangers spent five days paddling on Lake Superior in two voyageur canoes. The second undertook a number of activities in the bush near Pickle Lake.
Also for the first time, a small group of youth from four First Nations – Aroland, Ginoogaming, Long Lake No. 58, and Marten Falls – participated in Camp Loon through the army’s Eagle’s Nest program for Indigenous youth.
(Sergeant Peter Moon is the public affairs ranger for the 3rd Canadian Ranger Patrol Group at Canadian Forces Base Borden.)