By Canadian Ranger Master Corporal Chris Vernon
The annual Junior Canadian Ranger (JCR) National Marksmanship Championship (NMC) took place over the Victoria Day long weekend in St. Catharines, attracting skilled young shooters from across Canada as they competed for the title of champion marksman.
Held at the Canadian Armed Forces Lake Street Armoury, the three-day event hosted 75 Junior Canadian Ranger competitors between the ages of 12 and 18 from across the country.
Participants spent Saturday and Sunday shooting .177 calibre pellet air rifles from the standing, kneeling and prone position in a series of electronically scored relays with a target distance of 10 metres.
Attending dignitaries included Gregory Lick, Ombudsman for the Department of National Defence and the Canadian Armed Forces, Acting Director of the Canadian Rangers, Lieutenant-Colonel Kevin Langlois, and Canada Company Director General and Program Manager Marie Claire Ouellette and Jay Yakabowitch.
Many participants reside in remote northern communities, and it was their first trip to the hustle and bustle of the Greater Toronto Area and the Niagara Region.
Canadian Ranger Corporal Qullik Kiatainaq brought nine JCRs from the Inuit communities of Kangiqsujuaq and Aupaluk in Nunavik, Nord-du-Quebec to represent the 2nd Canadian Ranger Patrol Group.
“There’re trees here. It’s nice. The scenery is nice. There are different animals and birds that we don’t have,” said Kiatainaq.
A popular highlight of the event was a trip to Niagara Falls where the attractions of Clifton Hill were a big hit with the youth.
Like the national cadet program, the JCR program is open to youth between the ages of 12 to 18 who live in remote and isolated locations and is managed and supported by army personnel and five Canadian Ranger Patrol Groups based in different parts of the country. Funded by the Cadet and Junior Canadian Rangers Support Group, there is no cost to join the JCR program or for training, and participants also receive a uniform free-of-charge.
“The JCR National Marksmanship Championship is intended to be a challenging and rewarding way to develop JCRs marksmanship and safe firearms handling skills. The championship creates an opportunity for JCRs to travel outside their home communities and meet other JCRs from across Canada,” said Major Tom Bell, Officer Commanding of Ontario’s Junior Canadian Rangers Company.
Held annually, this year’s championship took place in Ontario and was hosted by the 3rd Canadian Ranger Patrol Group (3CRPG) which is headquartered at Canadian Forces Base Borden, near Barrie.
The Canadian Rangers are a 5,000-member sub-component of the Canadian Armed Forces’ Primary Reserve force, whose mandate is to provide a military presence in Canada’s far north. Many members are First Nation and Inuit and assist with search-and-rescue, other domestic operations, and serve as Canada’s eyes and ears in the nation’s sparsely populated northern territory.
According to 3CRPG Commanding Officer Lieutenant-Colonel Shane McArthur this year’s competition holds special significance as 2023 marks the 25th anniversary of the JCR program.
“What’s special about this year’s championship is that 2023 is the 25th anniversary of the Junior Canadian Rangers program. A national closing ceremony event will be held in Quebec recognizing the anniversary in January,” said Lieutenant-Colonel McArthur.
To commemorate the silver anniversary, Canada Company is sponsoring the creation of a 25th anniversary JCR pin and coin that will be distributed to all JCRs throughout the year.
The JCR program teaches participants The Three Circles of training — life skills, traditional skills and Ranger skills, and it is hoped that when the youth age-out of the program at 18 that they will apply to be Canadian Rangers.
Two 3CRPG JCRs placed during the competition, with Courtney Paulmartin receiving second place in axe throwing, a new event this year, and Talon Hunter earned the Sportsmanship Award.
The Three Circles components taught to JCR members include: