By Canadian Ranger Master Corporal Chris Vernon
Representatives from various levels of government and the military celebrated 75 years of Canadian Ranger service at Base Borden when a commemorative plaque was unveiled at the Ontario home of the 3rd Canadian Ranger Patrol Group (3CRPG) on Sept. 20.
The plaque unveiling was the culmination of a monumental 13-day canoe trip that married annual Canadian Ranger training with public outreach as part of 75th anniversary celebrations. Known as Exercise Ranger Tracker 22, the voyage from Parry Sound to Ottawa from Sept. 4 to 17 saw approximately 32 Canadian Rangers of 3CRPG travel through the Trent-Severn Waterway and the Rideau Canal in nine large, motorized freighter canoes as they practiced water navigation and safe watercraft operation drills.
3CRPG Commanding Officer Lt.-Col. Shane McArthur said both events were held to educate and highlight the unique life-saving work Rangers routinely conduct.
Canadian Rangers are part-time army reservists who serve in remote, isolated and coastal communities, with most in Ontario located above the 50th parallel. In total, there are 600 Rangers in 29 First Nation communities operating in Ontario. This year a host of national events were held across the county to recognize the creation of the Canadian Rangers in 1947 who were first stood-up in B.C.
So far this year, members have participated in 17 ground search-and-rescue missions, rescuing 23 people, including two stranded truckers on an ice road, an injured Attawapiskat First Nation snowmobiler and two young hunters whose ATVs broke down, leaving them stranded about 100 kilometres away from their communities.
The canoe expedition was greeted by well-wishers as they traversed waterway locks in various communities, including Orillia, Peterborough and Kingston, before ending in Ottawa. A total of 94 waterway locks were traversed.
“A lot of people have never seen anything like it. It was an educational experience. I am very pleased. We did an education piece to a lot of people,” said Lt.-Col. McArthur.
For many Rangers, living in isolated First Nation communities including Fort Albany and Peawanuck, it was their first time visiting southern cities, while navigating unfamiliar water reinforced their basic Ranger skills.
“Exercise Ranger Tracker 2022 was an amazing experience travelling in the southern waters and seeing how old the lift-locks are and the mechanisms used for boats to travel up and down. It was part of a water world that you don’t see, and don’t realize you can discover in Ontario,” said Ranger Sgt. Jocelyne Sutherland who resides in Fort Albany.
Before the plaque was revealed, about 200 guests were treated to traditional First Nation dance performed by Canadian Ranger MCpl Redfern Wesley, sacred prayers, and a smudge, where sage and sweetgrass are burned to purify body and spirit. The event kicked off with the singing of O’Canada in Ojibwe.
“There are five groups across Canada celebrating the 75th, with the national event held in Victoria, B.C. in May. This is our Ontario event to recognize 75 years. It was two-fold to mark the end of Exercise Ranger Tracker 2022 and to commemorate the 75th year of the Canadian Ranger with a plaque at our headquarters,” said Lt.-Col. McArthur.
The plaque was unveiled by 4th Canadian Division Commander Brigadier-General Josh Major and Commanding Officer Lt-Col. McArthur.
The ceremony also paid tribute to 3CRPG’s oldest active member, Sgt. Peter Moon, who is retiring at the end of October at the age of 88.
After a long and successful career as a reporter at The Globe and Mail, Moon served for decades as 3CRPG’s Public Affairs representative, travelling across northern Ontario to cover numerous events and training activities for 3 CRPG.
“We gave Peter a ceremonial, decorated Canadian Ranger axe. It is a rare honour. The axe is for exceptional, long-serving members,” said Lt.-Col. McArthur.
3CRPG is based at CFB Borden near Barrie and is staffed by military personnel and army instructors who travel regularly to northern Ontario to train Canadian Rangers.