DEER LAKE FN – Canadian Rangers are actively assisting four First Nations in Northern Ontario that are facing COVID-19 outbreaks that have overwhelmed the communities’ abilities to deal with them.
The remote communities asked the Province of Ontario for military assistance. The province asked the Government of Canada to authorize the use of Rangers, who are part-time army reservists, and the Rangers were directed to assist Attawapiskat, Kasabonika, Kashechewan and most recently Deer Lake First Nation.
“Rangers from the local patrols in Kashechewan, Attawapiskat, and Kasabonika are helping their own communities,” said Lieutenant-Colonel Shane McArthur who commands 700 Rangers in 29 First Nations across the Far North of Ontario. “We don’t have a patrol in Deer Lake so we activated a Ranger Go Team to go to their assistance. An RGT is a mobile team made up of Rangers from different First Nations that fly to provide help.”
A team assisting Deer Lake First Nation includes soldiers from the 3rd Canadian Ranger Patrol Group headquarters at Canadian Forces Base Borden and Canadian Rangers from Sandy Lake, Lac Seul, and Pikangikum First Nations.
“The Rangers in the four communities assist people who need help in getting around the community,” Lt.-Col. McArthur said. “They make sure that those who are ill and in quarantine get access to food and water. They cut and distribute firewood. They liaise with the local chief and council and provide crucial support.
“There are currently about 450 COVID cases in the four communities. The number of cases goes up and down,” he said. “Depending on test results there could be 400 one day and 600 the next. The total of four communities we are assisting now is down from the seven we were helping a short while ago, when we were also monitoring two other First Nations so that we could respond quickly if they got overwhelmed.”
The Rangers have been aiding overwhelmed First Nations across Northern Ontario since the pandemic began two years ago. “They continue to do a remarkable job when they are called on to provide support for communities with serious COVID situations,” Lt.-Col. McArthur said.
The next key task for the Rangers is conducting flood watches on many of Northern Ontario’s major rivers during the spring break up. In the past, several communities on the James Bay and Hudson Bay coasts, as well as in other parts of Northern Ontario, were evacuated because of flooding.
(Sergeant Peter Moon is a Ranger with the 3rd Canadian Ranger Patrol Group at CFB Borden.)