ATTAWAPISKAT – Junior Canadian Ranger Jack Linklater Jr. will always remember the day he turned 15 in August of last year. He awoke suddenly from an early evening nap to find his house in the Cree community of Attawapiskat was on fire. He ran for safety while shouting for everyone to get out of the burning building. There were 16 people living in the five-bedroom house.
“My older sister told me her two kids were still in the last bedroom and I went running back in because no one would go in,” he said. “They were scared, shocked. The bedroom door was locked and I had to force my way in. I kicked and shoved against the door to get it to open.”
His two nieces, aged two and four, were inside. He grabbed them and carried them through the blinding and choking black smoke to safety. The children were unharmed. But Jack collapsed unconscious onto the ground from smoke inhilation and was rushed to the community hospital where he regained consciousness and was released after treatment.
His quick actions in the fire were part of the reason he was named Ontario’s Junior Canadian Ranger of the year during a ceremony at Camp Loon, an advanced training camp for selected Junior Rangers held annually in the bush north of Geraldton. The Junior Rangers are a national Canadian Army program for boys and girls aged 12 to 18 in isolated communities across Canada’s North.
“Jack’s been in the program for several years and he’s always there when you need him,” said Captain Caryl Fletcher, the Canadian Army officer who is the camp’s commandant.”He’s everything you want in a Junior Ranger. In addition, he ran into that burning building and helped two of his young nieces escape to safety. He is a worthy Junior Canadian Ranger of the Year.”
“My dad (Jack Sr.) is a Canadian Ranger,” Jack said, “and I want to be a Canadian Ranger, too, so I joined the Junior Canadian Rangers when I was 12. We go out into the bush. We practice our survival skills. We make home-made emergency shelters, we go ice fishing and do target shooting.
“I go out on the land with my dad once in a while for snow geese. I was 12 when I got my first one with a 12-guage shotgun. I haven’t got a moose yet but I am going to.”
It is his second year at Camp Loon. “It’s fun. You meet new people and you learn a lot of useful stuff.”
(Sergeant Peter Moon is the public affairs ranger for 3rd Canadian Ranger Patrol Group at Canadian Forces Base Borden.)