By Peter Moon
THUNDER BAY – Two members of the headquarters staff of the 3rd Canadian Ranger Patrol Group have received national awards recognizing their work in promoting boat and water safety in the remote First Nations of the Far North of Ontario.
Chief Warrant Officer Robert Patterson, 3 CRPG’s group sergeant major, and Warrant Officer Carl Wolfe, an instructor, received special recognition awards from the Canadian Safe Boating Council for their “incredibly special” work promoting safe and responsible boating in Canada at a ceremony in Toronto.
The awards, said Ted Rankine, the CSBC’s safety program manager, recognize “the work that they do, day in and day out, to keep their constituents, the communities they serve in the North, safer.”
Drowning rates in the remote regions of the Canadian North, he said, “are about eight times greater than the numbers in the South. The loss of life in these small, close-knit communities is tragic and the cost and time required for search and rescue in the North is enormous.”
Northern Ontario has the highest rate of Indigenous drowning deaths in Canada, because of the large Indigenous population, because few people learn to swim, and a lack of education about water safety.
Both soldiers have worked closely with the CSBC helping to “Deliver education targeted to young people through the school system and to the community at large through events and various interactive activities on four fundamental survival pillars – life jackets, reboarding devices, cold water awareness, and the importance of (telling people about) trip plans.”
Before becoming 3 CRPG’s sergeant major, Patterson worked in Ontario’s Far North as an instructor with the Rangers. “He was deployed,” Rankine said, “for about 150 days a year in the North. That’s more than half a working year, where he worked, trained, and educated others in some of Canada’s harshest environments. In the South, Rob didn’t relax. He was 3rd Canadian Ranger Patrol Group’s marine operations lead, the (Ontario Provincial Police) liaison officer, and the Canadian Ranger rep to the CSBC.”
When Patterson became 3 CRPG’s group sergeant major he used the position to continue promoting boat and water safety.
“Someone needed to fill the big pair of boots (Patterson) left,” Rankine said, and the person who filled them was Wolfe, who provides significant water safety training for the Rangers in Northern Ontario. “This was serious training that involved trips on dangerous waters in harsh climates for periods that spanned a week or more,” Rankine said. “There is no safety net up there. You have to know how to prepare, prevent, and perform to stay alive and achieve the mission.”
Both soldiers worked closely with the CSBC last year to deliver life jackets and safety education programs to several First Nations in Northern Ontario. The education component of the program will expand to Northern Quebec this year and then across Canada in 2019. It will be delivered nationwide by Rangers in the more than 200 remote and isolated communities where there are local Rangers, who are part-time army reservists.
(Sergeant Peter Moon is the public affairs ranger for the 3rd Canadian Ranger Patrol Group at Canadian Forces Base Borden.)