By Peter Moon
Six Junior Canadian Rangers from Northern Ontario have completed a challenging leadership course in the Northwest Territories.
“This has been really different from what I’ve done in the past five years as a Junior Ranger,” said Claudia Albany, 17, from Kasabonika Lake, a remote Oji-Cree community 575 kilometers north of Thunder Bay. “It’s taught me to be a better leader. The first few days I was here I was really shy and I didn’t talk to anybody.”
But the training, she said, helped her to overcome her initial shyness and meet Junior Rangers from across Canada. The eight-day National Leadership Enhanced Training Session was attended by Junior Rangers from six provinces and the three Northern Territories and conducted in Yellowknife and nearby areas.
The Junior Rangers is a culturally appropriate youth program run by the Canadian Army for boys and girls aged 12 to 18 in remote and isolated communities across the North.
“There wasn’t a lot of classroom work,” said Sergeant Kevin Meikle, an army instructor, who accompanied the six Junior Rangers from Ontario. “It was pretty relaxed and more of an expedition for them. It’s really a beautiful area up here. The weather was beautiful the whole time. They spent five nights on the land outside Yellowknife and they made a lot of new friends. They met Junior Rangers from across Canada, from coast to coast.”
Junior Ranger Albany said she made friends with Junior Rangers “from Quebec, Nunavut, Saskatchewan, and Manitoba. Oh, and some from Newfoundland, too. We’re going to stay in touch on Facebook.”
The hardest part of the training, she said, was a five-hour canoe trip. “My arms were really sore afterwards from all the paddling,” she said. “But it was worth it. I enjoyed it.”
The trip from Kasabonika to Yellowknife was the furthest she has travelled except for a trip last year to compete in a national Junior Ranger shooting competition in Edmonton.
“The best part for me was the hiking,” said Junior Ranger Damon Iahtail, 18, from the Cree community of Fort Albany on the flat coastline of James coast. “I’ve never seen mountains before and they were really beautiful, although it was kind of hard on my legs, walking uphill for so long.”
He shared a tent with an Inuit Junior Ranger from Nunavut. “We’re going to stay in touch on Facebook,” he said.
The trip to Yellowknife was his first out of Ontario. “I’ve been a JCR since I was 12,” he said, “and being a JCR has allowed me to go to several places in Ontario and now to Yellowknife. They were all trips I would not have made if I wasn’t a JCR.”
The six Junior Rangers from Northern Ontario were: Trevor McKay from Kitchenuhmaykoosib, Brianna Miles from Fort Severn, Nova Gull from Peawanuck, Claudia Albany from Kasabonika, Damon Iahtail from Fort Albany, and Jaren Koosees from Moose Factory. Their escort was Master Corporal Angus Sutherland, a Canadian Ranger from Moose Factory.
(Sergeant Peter Moon is the public affairs ranger for the 3rd Canadian Ranger Patrol Group at Canadian Forces Base Borden.)