By Peter Moon
OTTAWA – Two Canadian Rangers from Northern Ontario were a great success with visitors to a display showcasing the military service of the Rangers during the annual Winterlude celebration in Ottawa and Gatineau, Que.
They manned the display with two Canadian Rangers from Quebec and answered thousands of questions from members of the public. The display was a major attraction in Jacques Cartier Park, located in Gatineau, across the Ottawa River from the Parliament Buildings in Ottawa.
“The public was overwhelmed by the Canadian Ranger display, actually,” said Captain Ted Dinning, the adjutant of 3rd Canadian Ranger Patrol Group, which commands the Rangers of Northern Ontario. “The Rangers told them about their role in ground search and rescue, evacuations for floods and forest fires, and other emergencies.
“Visitors didn’t realize the Rangers existed in those critical roles. They all walked away with a much better understanding and appreciation of who the Rangers are and what they do.”
The Ranger display included a tent showing how Rangers live on the land in often challenging conditions and a range of their specialized equipment, including a snowmobile and sled that many visitors wanted to be photographed with.
The two Northern Ontario Rangers, both Cree, were Sergeant Matthew Gull from Peawanuck on the Hudson Bay coast and Corporal Jessie Sutherland from Fort Albany on the James Bay coast.
“When I showed them on the map where I live they’d say: ‘Wow, you’re from way up north,’” said Corporal Sutherland. “A lot of them had never heard of the (James Bay) coast.”
When visitors learned what the Rangers do as part-time army reservists many expressed surprise that about 40 percent of the 550 Rangers in Northern Ontario are women.
“Most people don’t know anything about the Rangers,” said Sergeant Gull. “They were very surprised when we explained that we are part of the Canadian Army and told them what we do. They were pretty blown away by it.”
Visitors were also surprised to learn that the majority of Canada’s 5,000 Rangers in more than 200 communities across the Canadian North are Indigenous.
“When I told them I am Cree and showed them where I live in Peawanuck some people asked if I live all year round in a tent,” Sergeant Gull said. “I had to explain I live in a house with electricity and plumbing. They were even more amazed when I told them about my full-time job.”
Sergeant Gull is the airport manager in Peawanuck.
(Sergeant Peter Moon is the public affairs ranger for the 3rd Canadian Ranger Patrol Group at Canadian Forces Base Borden.)