CAMP LOON – The highest ranking Indigenous officer in the Canadian Armed Forces says the Junior Canadian Rangers of the Far North of Ontario should be proud of their identity and work to preserve their culture.
“I’m a status Indian like you,” Brigadier-General Jocelyn Paul told 140 Junior Rangers during a visit to Camp Loon, an annual camp that provides Junior Rangers with a week of advanced training in the bush north of Geraldton. “I’m proud to be an Indian like you. And you should be proud to be Indian.”
The camp’s training emphasizes the importance of safety on the land and water and in personal lifestyles. The Junior Rangers at the camp live in isolated and remote First Nation communities across the Far North of Ontario.
General Paul was recently appointed the commander of the army’s 4th Canadian Division, which commands the army in Ontario and is the largest military formation in Canada.
He told the assembled Junior Rangers that he grew up on the Huron Wendat First Nation, near Quebec City, where he owns a house and goes back regularly to hunt and fish. When his military career is over, he said, he plans to retire to it with his First Nation wife and live in the community.
He told the Junior Rangers their culture is important to them and to their communities. He encouraged them to complete their educations and even if that and their future employment should take them away from their home reserves they should maintain connections to them.
He told them his own small reserve has recently seen one of its members graduate as its first medical doctor and the pride his achievement has brought to its members. “You can do that, too,” he told the Junior Rangers.
Afterward, he said the camp left a powerful impression on him. “For most of the time I’ve been here they have been super interested in what they are doing here,” he said. “They have big smiles on their faces. I’m going back home with a big smile on my own face.”
The training at the camp, he said, is giving the Junior Rangers “skills that are extremely valuable when you’re living in a remote community. But it’s also giving them a sense of pride. It’s reinforcing their identity.”
He encouraged the Junior Rangers to become Canadian Rangers when they are old enough. “What the Rangers are doing up North is fantastic,” he said. “They’re saving lives (in search and rescue operations and emergency evacuations) but they’re also protecting a lifestyle, the knowledge of how to survive on the land. They are preserving an important part of the Northern identity. And they are passing that knowledge on to the Junior Rangers.”