Demand for summer camp for First Nation youth prompts Canadian Rangers to find new location

This year’s Camp Loon will offer campers a new location near North Bay that will allow more participants to attend. 3CRPG photo
This year’s Camp Loon will offer campers a new location near North Bay that will allow more participants to attend. 3CRPG photo

The Third Canadian Ranger Patrol Group (3 CRPG) will host its highly anticipated summer Camp Loon later this month that organizers hope will provide an unforgettable experience for Ontario’s Junior Canadian Rangers (JCRs).

This year’s camp for youth aged 12 to 18 will offer participants a new location near North Bay and some new fun summertime experiences, including a canoe trip.

According to Major Tom Bell, the Officer Commanding the JCRs of Ontario, the success of the camp necessitated a new location.

“In recent years we have had many Rangers and JCRs express concern that there was not enough capacity at Camp Loon, as the capacity was limited by what could be built in a limited time. Inevitably, this meant that some JCRs could miss out,” said Major Bell.

The JCR program, like army cadets, is administered and supported by Canadian Army staff at Base Borden, and aims to develop self-confidence, leadership skills, and an appreciation for the outdoors. In Ontario it is offered in First Nation communities located in isolated northern and coastal communities.

For nearly two decades the camp was held at a remote location near Geraldton, Ontario, that was built from scratch each year, but this year Camp Loon will be held at an existing outdoor outfitter and camp ‑- Spirit Point Academy and Camp in Trout Creek south of Powassan.

Major Bell said the venue change resulted in capacity rising from 100 in 2022 to 140 this year, and will allow the army to offer two, one-week camping sessions from July 22 to 28 and July 29 to Aug. 4.

“The main camp facility offers cabins, showers, and other infrastructure that is a massive improvement over previous years,” added Major Bell.

A new aspect of Camp Loon is a canoe trip that will be held before the main camp for select JCRs over the age of 16, or those who have been in the program for three years.

“The idea is that JCRs who have been in the program for a few years are ready for an additional challenge outside of the usual routine of Camp Loon,” said Major Bell.

The week-long canoe trip will venture into Crown Land three hours northwest of Thunder Bay.

This year’s camp holds special significance, as 2023 marks the 25th anniversary of the JCRs, and to recognize the occasion a commemorative pin and coin will be distributed to all JCRs throughout the year.

Started as a pilot-project by the Department of National Defence in Inuvik, N.W.T with 10 youth, the JCR program now has more than 4,200 participants in 137 locations.

Participants at Camp Loon will take part in training and activities that teach both Canadian Ranger and traditional First Nation skills – including tree-top zip-lining, air rifle shooting, safe use of ATVs, beading, and traditional arts and crafts, archery and sports.

Under the guidance of experienced Canadian Rangers and qualified army instructors, throughout the year JCRs learn essential survival skills such as fire building, shelter construction, fishing and foraging, crafts, and map and compass navigation, all taught with a First Nation perspective. When youth age out of the program at age 18 they have the opportunity to enrol as Canadian Rangers if they so choose.

The Canadian Rangers are a 5,000-member sub-component of the Canadian Armed Forces’ Primary Reserve army force, whose mandate is to provide a military presence in Canada’s far north. In Ontario, many members live and serve in First Nation communities.

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