THUNDER BAY – Camp Loon 2015 was a good camp,” in fact, it was the best yet,” according to Captain Caryl Fletcher, the Canadian Army officer who was the camp’s commandant. Held in the bush north of Geraldton, it provided eight days of advanced training in July for 149 Junior Canadian Rangers from 19 First Nations from across the Far North of Ontario, with an emphasis on safety on the land and water and in personal lifestyles.
The safety training was successful but so was the emphasis on developing self confidence and leadership skills among the Junior Rangers. “It certainly achieved that,” Captain Fletcher said. “It was great to see them grow day by day.”
The Junior Rangers are a national Canadian Army program for boys and girls aged 12 to 18 in isolated communities across the Canadian North. In Ontario there are 750 Junior Rangers in 20 First Nations.
The tent camp has been held annually since 2000 and operated this year with the assistance of 47 Canadian Rangers, who are part-time reserve soldiers, and 52 other military personnel.
“I’d say an over-all ball park figure for the cost of this year’s camp is probably going to be in the vicinity of $1-million,” Captain Fletcher said. “That is a remarkable investment by the Canadian Army in helping to build leadership in the young people of the Far North of Ontario.”
The camp provided a range of training activities that are not normally available to Junior Rangers in their own communities. They included specialized instruction in shooting (both rifle and paint ball), how to drive and maintain an all-terrain vehicle, learning how to drive a power boat and paddle a canoe, how to swim-to-survive, mountain biking, archery, lacrosse, and making traditional arts and crafts.
Master Corporal Byron Corston was a Junior Ranger for four years before becoming a Canadian Ranger in his home community of Moose Factory. “The Junior Canadian Rangers taught me structure,” he said, “how to take care of myself, and work in a team, and that’s what we’ve tried to teach the kids here at Camp Loon.
“I had 17 kids in my group and the first day nobody talked to anybody. Everybody sort of shied off and found their own little spot and looked for somebody from their home community and that was the only time they talked. I told them to loosen up and talk to each other. After eight days they’re entirely different. Everybody knows everybody. Everybody’s laughing and having fun. They’ve learned a lot about each other and themselves and they’ve learned a lot about safety from the training sites.
“They liked the training sites but the camp, which is an army camp, impressed them by its size, with all its equipment and big trucks. They met and talked with the soldiers, who were great with them. It’s different from being at home on the reserve.”
This was the second Camp Loon for Junior Ranger Donavin Fox, 15, of Mishkeegogamang. “I liked everything about it,” he said. “The best thing was meeting people and I liked the ATV training. I was seven when I first rode an ATV. I just got on and rode it. Now I know how to do it safely.
“Yes, I was shy last year but I was more confident this year and I talked to lots of people and we’re going to stay in touch on Facebook. The food was good, too. I liked the eggs and bacon at breakfast.
“Next year? Yeah, of course I want to come back.”
Sergeant Peter Moon is the public affairs ranger for 3rd Canadian Ranger Patrol Group at Canadian Forces Base Borden.