FORT HOPE – The Junior Canadian Ranger patrol in Fort Hope has been named the top Junior Ranger patrol in Ontario.
“They got the award this year because they work well together and they are able to work independently more frequently than most of our patrols do,” said Captain John McNeil, the Canadian Army officer who commands the 750 Junior Rangers in 20 isolated First Nation communities across the Far North of Ontario.
“They have had a lot of issues to overcome as a group, living in a community that has had a lot of problems with suicide, arsons, and drugs. We’ve seen a vast improvement in the quality of the Junior Rangers coming out of Fort Hope. They are getting support from their chief and council.”
The Junior Rangers are a Canadian Armed Forces program for boys and girls aged 12 to 18 in remote and isolated communities across the North. Fort Hope is a fly-in Ojibway community with a population of 1,400. It is 300 kilometres northeast of Thunder Bay. There are 50 active Junior Rangers in the community.
“They run the program largely on their own,” said Warrant Officer Ron Wen, the Canadian Army instructor who visits the community to provide training on regular basis.”They have weekly activities that involve other youth in the community who are not Junior Rangers. They invite them to participate.
“They go on canoe trips, clean up garbage, collect firewood. If there’s a funeral they’ll prepare the wood for that. They’ll assist. They’ll put their uniforms on for community activities.
“Karen Meeseetawageesic is the Canadian Ranger master corporal who runs the patrol. She’s amazing. She runs the show with her brother, John Rae, and gets all kinds of help from other Rangers, Harry Papah, Myrna Slipperjack, and Lucy Atlookan.
“The program is awesome for the kids in Fort Hope. It’s a community that’s had problems with suicides and arson and these kids are the model for what a Junior Ranger patrol should be.”
The announcement of the award was a surprise for people in the community.
“Oh, this is wonderful news,” said Chief Elizabeth Atlookan. “I’m so proud of them. We will have to celebrate this in the community. It is something to celebrate. They are great kids.”
“I’m so proud of my Rangers,” said Master Corporal Meeseetawageesic. “They do a great job for the community. This is exciting news for them and for me and for everyone who has helped them to win this award.”
(Sergeant Peter Moon is the public affairs ranger for the 3rd Canadian Ranger Patrol Group at Canadian Forces Base Borden.)