THUNDER BAY – Camp Loon 2016, an annual advanced training camp for Junior Canadian Rangers from across the Far North of Ontario, began with a traditional opening ceremony.
Junior Rangers, Canadian Rangers, and other military personnel formed up in front of a ceremonial fire and 3rd Canadian Ranger Patrol Group’s large tipi to hear a Junior Ranger drum group sing an opening song, listen to a prayer in Oji-Cree from the camp’s Canadian Ranger elder, and see tobacco offered to the fire after it was lit.
“It was a good start to the first day,” said Captain John McNeil, the Canadian Army officer commanding the 750 Junior Rangers in 20 First Nations across northern Ontario. “All the training sites have been well received by the kids. They are having a fantastic time and love what they are doing.”
Camp Loon is, a tent camp in the bush on Springwater Lake, 50 kilometres north of Geraldton. It has 156 Junior Rangers at it, as well as 35 Canadian Rangers, who are part-time army reservists, and 59 other military personnel. It ends on July 1.
“The cost for the camp is about $1-million,” Captain McNeil said. “That works out to $7,575.75 per kid and it’s worth every penny.
“The isolated communities the Junior Rangers come from have limited resources and for them to pull those resources together for their kids would take away from the communities. So Camp Loon is an opportunity for the Junior Rangers to learn how to do things like how to ride an ATV safely and how to shoot accurately and handle their weapon safely, without a cost to their communities.
“Their parents really appreciate it because their kids get skills here they will need in life and it allows them to develop friendships that can last a lifetime. Some kids come to the camp and they are very shy, but over the days they are here they bond with each other quickly. They are very resilient and they take to the camp and they really enjoy themselves. And they learn a lot about safety.”
The camp stresses safety on the land, water, and in their personal lifestyles. They receive specialized instruction in shooting, boating, driving all-terrain vehicles, swimming, mountain biking, archery, lacrosse, and traditional arts and crafts.
(Sergeant Peter Moon is the public affairs ranger for the 3rd Canadian Ranger Patrol Group at Canadian Forces Base Borden.)