By Peter Moon
CAMP LOON – The Canadian Rangers of Northern Ontario have received a rare honour – a Canadian Armed Forces Unit Commendation – for their service in emergencies across the Far North of Ontario.
“It’s a rare honour and a great honour,” said Lieutenant-Colonel Matthew Richardson, who commands the Canadian Rangers in Ontario. “It recognizes the operational abilities of the Rangers in Ontario and the efforts they have made to make their communities safer places.”
Canadian Rangers are part-time army reservists who serve in more than 200 remote and isolated communities across the Canadian North. In Northern Ontario there are 640 Canadian Rangers in 27 First Nations.
The citation for the award says: “Year after year, 3rd Canadian Ranger Patrol Group (3 CRPG) has assisted First Nation communities in Northern Ontario with search and rescue operations and evacuations from floods and forest fires.
“From June to August, 2017, (3 CRPG) deployed to the First Nations communities of Wapekeka and Nibinamik in an unprecedented effort to assist with a dire youth suicide crisis. Upon a moment’s notice, 40 part-time Rangers deployed and arrived on the ground in the communities within a day; they then conducted patrols and provided counsel to youth at risk for the next 48 days.
“The efforts and devotion to duty demonstrated by 3 CRPG helped save lives and brought great credit to the Canadian Armed Forces.”
There were no suicides while the Rangers were on duty in Wapekeka and Nibinamik.
The award, which consists of a pennant, scroll, and a gold medallion was made by Brigadier-General Conrad Mialkowski, commander of the army in Ontario, at Camp Loon, an advanced training camp for Junior Canadian Rangers, held annually in the bush north of Geraldton. “It is a unique award,” he said. “Canadian Rangers, I salute you.”
The award recognizes not only the service of the Rangers during the suicide crisis, Colonel Richardson said, but the support they received from their army instructors and the operational and other staff at 3 CRPG’s headquarters at Canadian Forces Base Borden. “It was a whole of unit operation.”
The Rangers of Northern Ontario were once seen as a useful asset to their communities, he said. “They are now recognized as indispensable community organizations.”
Since the beginning of 2016 they have rescued more than 100 people in search and rescue operations.
So far in 2019, Rangers have played leading roles in two evacuations in Pikangikum when the First Nation was threatened by forest fires, helped evacuate Kashechewan when an ice jam on the Albany River threatened to flood the community, and maintained flood watches in Cree communities on James Bay during the spring ice break up.
Since January 1, the unit has spent 91 days on operations in Northern Ontario, 31 of them involving search and rescue missions in which 40 people were rescued.