By Peter Moon
A new Junior Canadian Ranger patrol has opened in Pikangikum First Nation with an initial enrollment of 70 Junior Rangers, making the long-awaited patrol the largest of the 21 Junior Ranger patrols in Northern Ontario.
“It’s a good day for Pikangikum, it certainly is,” said Chief Dean Owen. “We’ve been wanting this for our youth for a long time. I’m very hopeful the Junior Canadian Ranger program will help our community to raise the youth up, to become mature, responsible young people and be able to take on future leadership roles such as being chief one day. I have high hopes for this program.”
The Junior Canadian Rangers is a culturally sensitive Canadian Army youth program for boys and girls aged 12 to 18 in remote and isolated communities across the Canadian North. Pikangikum, an Ojibway community with a population of 3,800, has no year-round road access and is 510 kilometers northwest of Thunder Bay.
The planned ceremony for the opening of the new patrol was replaced with a shortened version held outside the church where a funeral service was being held after the sudden death of a Canadian Ranger. The Junior Rangers, wearing their new green uniforms, attended the service.
A Canadian Ranger patrol opened in Pikangikum in February. Its members, who are part-time army reservists, played a key role in helping to evacuate the community twice, in May and July, when it was threatened by two major forest fires. They have assisted in a number of other community crises.
“These new Junior Canadian Rangers have seen the local Canadian Rangers assisting in the evacuations and in other crises here in Pikangikum,” said Warrant Officer Kevin Meikle, an army instructor, “and I believe that has helped to inspire them to join the Junior Rangers and to become Canadian Rangers in the future to assist their community.”
Pikangikum has a high rate of youth suicides. “I told them that as Junior Rangers they now have their families, their community, and the Ranger family as another layer of support,” Warrant Officer Meikle said.
“I joined the Junior Canadian Rangers,” said Riel King, 14, “because it’s going to be interesting and because I got inspired seeing what the Canadian Rangers have been doing for the community. I’m hoping the Junior Canadian Rangers will be able to help our community as well.”
Captain Jason Dech is the army officer who runs the Junior Ranger program in Northern Ontario. “The community has been wanting a Junior Ranger patrol for a very long time,” he said, “and having 70 new Junior Rangers for the opening of what will be largest Junior Ranger patrol in Northern Ontario is a grest turnout. This is going to be a good patrol.”
(Sergeant Peter Moon is the public affairs ranger for the 3rd Canadian Ranger Patrol Group at Canadian Forces Base Borden.)