Canadian Rangers Providing Boots on the Ground in Bearskin Lake

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Rangers deliver food and other essentials to residents in their homes when a COVID-19 crisis forced Ginoogaming First Nation into a lockdown.
Rangers deliver food and other essentials to residents in their homes when a COVID-19 crisis forced Ginoogaming First Nation into a lockdown.

THUNDER BAY – COVID-19 – Canadian Rangers are on the ground in Bearskin Lake helping access the situation and provide needed intelligence to the Canadian Armed Forces and work with community leadership.

Bill Blair says, “This afternoon, I spoke with Chief Kamenawatamin about support for Bearskin Lake. Starting today, Canadian Rangers will be on the ground to help the community with their response to the COVID-19 outbreak.”

“Late Thursday night, we received a formal Request for Federal Assistance (RFA) from the Government of Ontario for Bearskin Lake First Nation. Upon receipt, Public Safety Canada officials immediately engaged with their provincial counterparts, and partners from across government, to assess the needs of the community and identify federal resources”.

This afternoon, Minister Blair spoke with Chief Lefty Kamenawatamin to inform him that the RFA has been approved.

There are currently four local Rangers who are on the ground to support with the following tasks:

  • Integrate into the local Emergency Operations Centre (EOC) command post in the community to coordinate activities with the Chief and his Council and other partners;
  • Provide limited logistical and limited general support to include, but not limited to, transportation assistance, resupply and humanitarian assistance;
  • Support the community in the distribution of real-life-support requirements such as food, water, firewood and care packages;
  • Assist with the distribution of information from community, provincial and federal entities related to personal protective health measures and layered risk mitigation strategies;
  • Where necessary, conduct community wellness checks; and
  • Provide limited assistance to establish a local Alternative Isolation Area (AIA)

Additional CAF Rangers will be activated in the community over the coming days.

This deployment will take place for an initial two-week period from January 9, 2022 until January 23, 2022, with the possibility of extension.”

Background Information on the Request for Federal Assistance Process:

The Government Operations Centre continuously engages with federal, provincial, territorial and Indigenous partners to ensure they are ready to respond, should federal assistance be required. A request for federal assistance (RFA) is how a province or territory formally requests support from the federal government in their emergency response efforts. An RFA is initiated when an emergency event overwhelms or threatens to overwhelm the resources of a province or territory and federal government help is needed to effectively support the impacted region. Should a province or territory make an official request for federal assistance (RFA), there is a well-established process in place for managing RFAs, through the Government Operations Centre, that includes interdepartmental consultation and coordination as it pertains to resources. Since January 2020, the Government of Canada has supported 155 Requests for Federal Assistance, including 55 in First Nations communities.

The Canadian Rangers are part-time reservists in the Canadian Armed Forces.

“We react to a myriad of requirements and tasks and missions across the North,” says Lieutenant-Colonel Shane McArthur, who commands the 600 Rangers of the 3rd Canadian Ranger Patrol Group, headquartered at Canadian Forces Base Borden. ”In the last 19 months we’ve been called on to support, more and more increasingly, difficult tasks in more and more First Nations”.

“There was a growing concern that we may not be able to respond to provide support and therefore a potential for no response existed. And in the eyes of the military, this could mean mission failure, which is clearly not acceptable. The answer was the formation of RGTs, Ranger Go Teams, ready to respond quicker to any First Nation that needed assistance.”

The role of Canadian Rangers through the pandemic has changed over time. The ability of the Canadian Rangers to adapt and to work in challenging situations is a testament to the esprit du corp that is a part of the Ranger’s style.

Blair states that additional Rangers will be deployed to Bearskin Lake in coming days.