By Peter Moon
Photos by Warrant Officer Ron Wen, Canadian Army
THUNDER BAY – A Junior Canadian Ranger team representing Ontario did well competing against some of the top teenage shots in Canada while competing in a national Junior Ranger markmanship competition in Labrador, according to their Canadian Army instructor.
“They’re all proud of themselves even though they didn’t win,” said Warrant Officer Ron Wen. “They shot well, had a good time, and they enjoyed themselves.”
The team was made up of five Junior Rangers from Fort Hope and five from Fort Seven. They competed against Junior Rangers from seven provinces and the three northern territories in a three-day competition held at Canadian Forces Base Goose Bay. Some of the Junior Ranger contestants travelled from as far away as Alert Bay, B.C., and Pangnirtung, Nunavut. For many, like the Junior Rangers from Northern Ontario, it took four days of travel to get to and from the Royal Canadian Air Force base.
The Junior Rangers is a Canadian Army program for boys and girls aged 12 to 18 in remote and isolated communities across the Canadian North.
The shooting contest was partly interrupted by a 25-hour power outage that affected a large area of central Labrador. It forced part of the competition to be held outdoors and meant cold meals and water and a lack of electrical light for much of its duration. It also meant the Junior Rangers could not use their electronic devices, forcing them to talk to each other in the dark.
“It was good when all the lights went out, it was fun, everyone was socializing,” said Naomi Kakekaspan, 14, of Fort Severn. She impressed many Junior Rangers from other provinces when she told them how cold her Cree community near the Hudson Bay coast gets in winter and that polar bears are a common sight locally.
The Junior Rangers used air rifles to shoot at paper, clay, and falling plate targets on a 10-metre range. Most of the Junior Rangers from Northern Ontario were more familiar with regular rifles and shotguns, which they use for traditional hunting.
Tara Wabano, 13, from the small Ojibway community of Fort Hope harvested her first partridge when she was nine and her first moose at the age of 11.
“When I get back home,” she said, “I’ll tell people I made some cool friends who speak different languages. I heard (the Inuit language of) Inuktitut for the first time and they asked me to speak for them in my own language. It was fun.”
The Junior Rangers competed while standing, kneeling, and lying prone. “That made it a little difficult for our kids,” Warrant Officer Wen said. “Our kids usually shoot in a standing position when they go hunting. Shooting with air rifles in a competition is totally different from shooting on the land, compared with lying down on ground in a perfect condition and shooting at a target on a range.”
The Junior Ranger shooters from Northern Ontario were: from Fort Hope, Levi Moonias, Leighton Sugerhead, Tara Wabano, Shalynn Waboose, and Eleanor Waswa; and from Fort Severn, Chastity Bluecoat, Darian Bluecoat, Naomi Kakekaspan, Laney Miles, and Thomas Troy. Their escorts were Master Corporals Karen Meeseetawageesic from Fort Hope and Sherrie Kakekaspan from Fort Severn.
(Sergeant Peter Moon is the public affairs ranger for the 3rd Canadian Ranger Patrol Group at Canadian Foces Base Borden.)