By Peter Moon
NIBINAMIK – The Canadian Rangers have increased their presence in the Far North of Ontario with the opening of a new detachment in Nibinamik this month.
The new detachment means there are now 650 Rangers, who are part-time army reservists, in 24 remote and isolated First Nations.
Nibinamik, also known as Summer Beaver, is a fly-in, Oji-Cree community of more than 300 people located on the east shore of Nibinamik Lake on the Winisk River system. It is 500 kilometers north of Thunder Bay.
“It has always been in our expansion plan,” said Lieutenant-Colonel Matthew Richardson, commanding officer of the Rangers in Northern Ontario. “When you look at our locations in the North for search and rescue purposes Nibinamik is a community that is just out of reach of any of our other patrols. Nibinamik was interested in having Rangers, they were in a gap in our area of operations, and that is why they were selected.”
Last year, Rangers saved 32 lives in 26 successful search and rescue operations across the North.
“Plans are in the works for four new patrols to be opened next year and four more in the following year,” Colonel Matthews said.
Chief Johnny Yellowhead said his community is delighted to have its own Ranger detachment. “I’m very happy,” he said. “We’ve been wanting Rangers in our community for a long time. The people are very happy. I’m also very happy with the Rangers who were recruited in my community.”
The community, he said, has a need for search and rescue capabilities and has had to rely on a few community members with knowledge of the land. “But having trained Rangers in the community will be very useful.”
During the summer the community faced a youth suicide crisis and asked for outside help. Rangers from several Northern Ontario communities flew to Nibinamik and remained for parts of July and August, during which they patrolled to prevent suicides and provided a range of activities to keep young people occupied. There were no suicides while they were in the community.
Chief Yellowhead said the community is immensely grateful for the help the Rangers provided. “They were very helpful,” he said. “I told our people who volunteered to be a Ranger that we may be able one day to return the favour to the Rangers who came in to help us.”
The opening of the detachment was marked by the arrival of a Royal Canadian Air Force Chinook helicopter delivering a sea container to provide secure storage for the new detachment’s military supplies. “That equipment arrived on a plane the same day as the Chinook,” said Warrant Officer Ron Wen, an army instructor “They got pretty much everything except their rifles. The got their tents, stoves, lanterns, their compasses, GPSs, rations.”
Twenty Rangers were sworn in and issued their red caps and traditional red hoodies. Combat pants, boots, and other clothing items will follow. Rangers from Webequie and army instructors will fly to Nibinamik next month to begin their training.
“It was a very positive experience to be there on the opening day and see the excitement in the community,” Warrant Officer Wen said. “Everyone is very eager.
“The Rangers are a big asset for every community they are in. They do things that are above and beyond what they are expected to do.”
(Sergeant Peter Moon is the public affairs ranger for the 3rd Canadian Ranger Patrol Group at Canadian Forces Base Borden.)