TORONTO – Six Canadian Rangers from Northern Ontario are answering hundreds of questions every day about their role in the Canadian Armed Forces and about life in the Far North of Ontario.
They are staffing a Ranger exhibit that is a prominent part of a Canadian Armed Forces display at the Canadian National Exhibition in Toronto, the biggest fair of its kind in Canada. The CNE runs from August 19 to September 5 and during that time the Rangers expect to answer thousands of questions.
Their exhibit features a Ranger snowmobile, extreme cold weather clothing, a cold water immersion suit, photographs, a radio, and other items. It is surrounded by army, navy, and air force exhibits. Among a mix of military uniforms the Rangers stand out in their red t-shirts and red ball caps.
The Ranger display’s main attraction is the snowmobile. Many visitors have never seen one before.
“Most of them don’t know what a snowmobile is,” said Corporal Peter Echum. “One of them asked if it was a Sea Doo (a personal water craft). We have to explain how we use snowmobiles in the North. They love being photographed sitting on it.
“They ask me where I’m from all the time. I tell them I’m from Moose Factory. They ask me where that is and I tell them it’s on James Bay and they ask me where that is. They don’t know much about Northern Ontario. They’re all amazed when we tell them what the Rangers do in the North.
“Some people do know about us and they’re surprised to see us here at the CNE, down here in Toronto.”
Sergeant Jason Roundhead of North Caribou Lake, a remote Oji-Cree community of 700 people 500 kilometres north of Thunder Bay, said visitors ask a lot of questions about life in the North. “They don’t know what our life is like,” he said. “They ask us if we have roads and highways and I have to explain there are none where I live. They ask us about food and we explain our food costs are high because our food has to be flown into the community. They are surprised when we tell them we get a lot of our food off the land and how we do that.”
Many visitors are from other countries, such as Argentina, Mexico, Taiwan, Japan, China, Morocco, and the United States. One U.S. visitor had trouble understanding where Northern Ontario is located and kept referring to it as part of Alaska.
The Rangers said they enjoyed explaining the importance of their role in the Canadian Army and about their lives in the North but coping with so many visitors is sometimes a challenge.
“I’ve never seen so many people in my life and so many big buildings,” Sergeant Roundhead said, “but I’m having fun. I’m enjoying this.”
The four other Rangers staffing the exhibit are: Sergeant Jean Rabbit-Waboose of Fort Hope, Master Corporal Kathleen Beardy of Muskrat Dam, and Rangers Evelyn Capay of Lac Seul and Karen Meeseetawageesic of Fort Hope.
(Sergeant Peter Moon is the public affairs ranger for 3rd Canadian Ranger Patrol Group at Canadian Forces Base Borden.)