PEAWANUCK – When Jason Hunter was sworn in recently as a Canadian Ranger he did not take the oath of allegiance the way most soldiers do to become members of the Canadian Armed Forces.
Most soldiers are sworn in at a recruiting centre, an armoury, a military unit, or at a special function such as a mass swearing-in. Their oath of allegiance is administered by a commissioned officer in accordance with military law which says only a commissioned officer can administer the oath.
Hunter lives in Peawanuck, a small Cree settlement without year-round road access near the Hudson Bay coast. It is the second most northerly community in Ontario.
So flying a commissioned officer to Peawanuck to administer a short oath to make Hunter a Canadian Ranger and part-time army reservist was not practical.
Instead, Hunter, a security guard and an experienced hunter and fisherman like many Rangers, was sworn in while seated next to a speaker telephone in the living room of a private house in Peawanuck. Sitting next to him in an armchair was Sergeant Matthew Gull, commander of the 21-member local Ranger patrol.
On the other end of the phone was Captain Karl Haupt, an officer at the headquarters of the 3rd Canadian Ranger Patrol Group at Canadian Forces Base Borden near Barrie and 1,257 kilometres south of Peawanuck. Captain Haupt administered the oath over the phone while Sergeant Gull acted as a witness. Captain Haupt congratulated Hunter on becoming a Canadian Ranger and said good bye.
Sergeant Gull presented the newly sworn-in Hunter with his distinctive red Ranger hoodie and ball cap and posed with him for a souvenir photograph.
“It’s quite unique, but not unusual, for Canadian Rangers to be sworn-in over the phone like this because of where a lot of them live in remote Northern communities,” said Captain Caryl Fletcher, the officer commanding the Canadian Rangers in Northern Ontario. “It’s not the norm for new members of the Canadian Armed Forces to be sworn in over the telephone. But it is for Canadian Rangers because they tend to live in remote and isolated communities.
“It’s not really feasible for a commissioned officer from southern Ontario to make a trip all the way up North to an isolated community like Peawanuck for a swearing in that takes only a couple of minutes. So we do it over the phone. It’s a practical solution to what would otherwise be a problem in the North.”
He said records are not kept of how many Rangers are sworn in by phone but thinks he has personally sworn in at least 20 new recruits by phone. Other officers at Ranger headquarters at CFB Borden have likely sworn-in more than 150 additional new Rangers during the last 10 years, he said. “The Canadian Rangers are different from other members of the Canadian Armed Forces in many ways, including how they get sworn in as members.”
There are 5,000 Rangers in more than 200 remote and isolated communities across the Canadian North. In Northern Ontario, there are 630 Rangers in 23 First Nations.
(Master Corporal Pamela Chookomoolin is a member of the Peawanuck Canadian Ranger patrol.)