THUNDER BAY – A group of Junior Canadian Rangers from across the north of Canada, including nine from Northern Ontario, has completed a two-week training course in leadership that many described as “a blast” and one of the best learning experiences ever in their lives.
The 38 Junior Rangers, aged 15 to 18, came from small northern communities in six provinces and all three territories. They were First Nations, Metis, Inuit, and non-Aboriginal.
The course took them to Toronto, Kingston, Ottawa, and Canadian Forces Base Borden, where the course was organized by the 3rd Canadian Ranger Patrol Group. Most of the Junior Rangers had never seen skyscrapers, never travelled on a subway train, and never had to cope with temperatures in the 30-34C temperature range.
“I’m so hot,” said Heidi Kamookak, 16, of the small Inuit settlement of Taloyoak in Nunavut, when the temperature hit a humid 34C in downtown Toronto. “I’ve never been so hot. At home it would be 12C. All I want to do is get into a shower and turn the cold water tap on.”
Junior Ranger Rose Tagak, 17, an Inuit from Pond Inlet, Nunavut, said being more than 3,000 kilometres from home was a challenge. “There are too many people and too many buildings in Toronto and it was too hot,” she said. ‘But I’ve enjoyed this course. I’ve learned a lot and I’m taking it home with me. I want to use what I have learned.”
The Junior Canadian Rangers is a culturally appropriate Canadian Army program for boys and girls aged 12 to 18 in remote and isolated communities across the Canadian North.
During the course the Junior Rangers received classroom instruction from Canadian Army instructors and Canadian Rangers. They learned the principles of leadership, how to deal with various forms of stress, public speaking, and how to work in small groups and teams.
“These kids can go out on the land to do canoeing, hunting, and all kinds of outdoors stuff with ease,” said Captain John McNeil, the Canadian Army officer commanding the 750 Junior Rangers in 20 First Nation communities in Northern Ontario. “But what they had to do on this course, in part, was in a big city environment, which is foreign to most of them.
“They had to plan small party tasks in which somebody leads a small group of their peers. They had to plan a budget, how to use public transit. Most have never been on a bus or on a subway train. They had to interact with the public in large crowds of people and with each other.
“The end result is we’ve got kids who are now confident and able to work in an environment of what was for them uncertainty. They’ve learned to start an activity, complete it, and do it successfully.”
“Oh, man, this course has been so much fun,” said Beth Baxter, a Cree from Moose Factory, Ont. “I’ve had nothing but a blast. I’ve learned a lot. I’ve learned a lot about myself, like my leadership qualities, what I’m not good at, and where I need to improve. I’m excited to work on what I’m not good at so I can develop as a leader.
“The instructors have been fantastic. I love every single instructor here. They’ve helped me learn how to come out of my shell. And now I know how to come out of my shell I can help other people to come out of their shell.”
In Toronto the Junior Rangers had to plan trips from their temporary residence in a community college on the outskirts of the city into the downtown core to visit the CN Tower, the Royal Ontario Museum, Ripley’s Aquarium, the Hockey Hall of Fame, a Blue Jays baseball game, and the Ontario Science Centre. In Kingston they visited Royal Military College, Old Fort Henry, and CFB Kingston. They saw the changing of the guard on Parliament Hill, toured the Centre Block of Parliament, visited the Canadian Aviation Museum, the Canadian War Museum, and were visited during a breakfast by Elizabeth Dowdeswell, Ontario’s Lieutenant-Governor.
The Canadian War Museum made a big impact on Junior Ranger Jack Linklater Jr., 17, of Attawapiskat, Ont. The museum has a new exhibit showing the role of Aboriginal peoples in Canada’s wars. “What was inspiring in Ottawa was all the Aboriginal people that were in World War One and World War Two,” he said. “I didn’t know any of that stuff. They were heroes.”
Like many of the Junior Rangers, he said he will need some time when he gets home to come to terms with the crowded and busy two weeks of the course. “When I get home I think, first, I’m going to go out on the land, because I’ve missed the land, and afterwards I’m going to tell people at home what I learned while I met a lot of people from different cultures from all over Canada.”
His home of Attawapiskat made headlines across Canada this year because of an epidemic of suicides and attempted suicides.
“I’m going to take back what I’ve learned on this course to my community,” he said. “Because if I can do that it could bring hope to my community. I’m going to use as much of it as I can.”
The Junior Rangers on the course from Northern Ontario were: Richanda Adams, 17, Sachigo Lake; Beth Baxter, 18, Moose Factory; Kirsten Fiddler, 16, Sandy Lake; Tyler Kakekaspan, 17, Fort Severn; Amber Lawson, 17, Mishkeegogamang; Jack Linklater Jr., 17, Attawapiskat; Elaina Matthews, 18, Kitchenuhmaykoosib; Laurinda Miles, 17, Fort Severn; and Joseph Waboose, Fort Hope.
(Sergeant Peter Moon is the public affairs ranger for the 3rd Canadian Ranger Patrol Group at Canadian Forces Base Borden.)