By Peter Moon
GERALDTON – After being cancelled for each of the last two summers because of the COVID-pandemic, Camp Loon, the popular Junior Canadian Ranger camp that provides a week of advanced leadership training, is back.
“The Junior Rangers are going to have a great time, a swell time,” said Captain Aiden Solar, the Canadian Army officer who is the camp’s acting commandant. “I think they are going to love it.”
The tent camp is held in the bush on Springwater Lake, 50 kilometers north of Geraldton.
The Junior Rangers is a Canadian Army program for youth aged 12 to 18 in remote and isolated communities across the Canadian North. In Ontario there are more than 700 Junior Rangers in 29 First Nations.
Prior to COVID as many at 160 Junior Rangers attended the annual camp and benefited from its emphasis on safety on the land and water and in personal lifestyles.
“What we’re seeing now, I think, with the more recent wave of COVID, is it is having an impact on the camp,” Captain Solar said. “Some kids dropped out because of recent outbreaks in their communities.”
The camp has been hugely popular with First Nation chiefs and councils. But some feared the Junior Rangers might bring COVID back their communities. The camp has its own military doctor and medical staff.
This year there are about 60 Junior Rangers from 17 First Nations at Camp Loon, as well as 22 Canadian Rangers, who are part-time army reservists, and 45 other military personnel to run it.
The camp provides selected Junior Rangers with a range of activities that are not normally available to them in their small communities. “They’re going to learn basic first aid,” Captain Solar said. “As well as things such as archery, safe boating, canoeing with safe canoeing techniques, mountain bike riding, traditional arts and crafts. They will shoot air rifles and do paintball, as well as field sports such as lacrosse and soccer.”
The first Camp Loon was held in 2000 in Constance Lake First Nation and later at several other First Nations before being held for the last several years near Geraldton.
The ceremonial opening took place last Saturday and featured drumming and two traditional dancers, Master Corporal Donald Sutherland from Constance Lake and Ranger Redfern Wesley from Kashechewan.
(Sergeant Peter Moon is a Ranger with the 3rd Canadian Ranger Patrol Group at Canadian Forces Base Borden.)