By Peter Moon
A Canadian Ranger from a remote Oji-Cree community in the Far North of Ontario has been awarded one of Canada’s highest honours.
Sergeant Linda Kamenawatamin, commander of the small Canadian Ranger patrol in Bearskin Lake, 630 kilometres north of Thunder Bay, was sitting in a class at the 4thCanadian Division Training Centre at Meaford, near Owen Sound, when she was told there was a phone call for her. “I thought what is it?” she said. “Who knows I am here?”
The caller was Brigadier-General Jocelyn Paul, commander of 4th Canadian Division, the military name for the Canadian Army in Ontario. “It was my first time talking to a general,” Sergeant Kamenawatamin said. “He told me I was receiving the Order of Military Merit and explained what it was and that I was receiving it for the outstanding work that I was doing in my community and because wherever I needed to go for the Rangers I went.
“I was pretty nervous talking to him and all I really knew was that I was receiving a medal and I would be flown to Ottawa to receive it from the Governor-General. I think it’s finally sinking in. They tell me it’s way up there in importance.”
Sergeant Kamenawatamin is the first female Ranger in Ontario to receive the Order of Military Merit, an honour that was created in 1972 to recognize outstanding service and devotion to duty by members of the Canadian Armed Forces. It is the military equivalent of the Order of Canada. She has already been awarded the Special Service Medal and the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee Medal for her military service.
Female Rangers account for almost half of Ontario’s 570 Rangers, who are part-time army reservists, in 25 First Nations across the Far North of Ontario. Prior to Sergeant Kaminawatamin’s appointment, four male Rangers in Ontario received the honour.
“The Order of Military Merit is one of the highest honours that can be given for a military member,” said Lieutenant-Colonel Matthew Richardson, who commands the Canadian Rangers in Ontario “Linda is a leader in her own right. She’s been the one that has kept the Bearskin patrol alive when times were bad and she’s protected us there. She’s done the same for the Junior Canadian Rangers. She’s the go-to person that exemplifies the good work the Rangers do in Northern Ontario. When you think of someone who does everything it’s her.”
The process for her award began with a nomination from Warrant Officer Daniel Stortz, an army instructor. “I know few Rangers who are as dedicated as she is,” he said. “She’s dedicated to the Rangers, to her family, and to her community. She does it all.”
Sergeant Kamenawatamin has been a Ranger for 10 years. Her full-time job is with a company bringing hydro to her isolated community of 500 people. She is the mother of four sons and one daughter, who range in age from 10 to 24. “I raised my nieces and nephews and their kids, too,” she said.
She fishes all year. “Mainly I get walleye. What I don’t keep I give to the Elders.”
(Sergeant Peter Moon is the public affairs ranger for 3rd Canadian Ranger Patrol Group at Canadian Forces Base Borden.)