By Ben Gribben & Paige Hopkins.
What do you know about the Canadian Ranger Patrol (CRP)? For some, they are the people who wear military attire and run around in the backwoods playing war games — maybe with the hopes of one day being called upon to save the country in the Canadian Armed Forces.
However, they are far more likened to Canada’s own “Men of The Night’s Watch”. They are clothed only in red hoodies and green camouflage fatigues, instead of black leather and fur. So, who exactly are the Canadian Rangers and what do they do? The CRP has a long history. Not thousands of years, but for the young country of Canada, it may as well be. The CRP was established after the bombing of Pearl Harbour in 1941. Back in the day they were commonly known as the Pacific Coast Militia Rangers (PCMR) which was formed in 1942. After the end of the Second World War, the militia then branched out along the coast into Canada. They continued to stay active in the late 50’s and early 60’s. It wasn’t until 1991 that the Canadian Government re-established the Rangers and organized patrols from coast to coast to coast. The Northwest Territories have one Patrol group; four in the west; five on the east coast, with southern Canada boasting another five.
Like the noble “Men of the Night’s Watch”, each Ranger takes great pride in what they do. Ranger Sergeant, Wade Istchenko spoke to that: “You see that pride and I think the youth really notice that in the Rangers, how they work together.” Indeed even Sergeant Istchenko proudly wears his very own Rangers insignia tattoo. Perhaps the largest part of their job is to provide assistance to northern and isolated communities throughout Canada. This can mean providing a military presence, in time of disaster, or simply sharing their backcountry knowledge and wilderness skills. On an annual basis, they support the Yukon Quest by providing proper safety measures and trail grooming for the mushers. They also partner with various educational institutions to assist in environmental research. Their tasks range from measuring the salinity of seawater to evaluating polar bear droppings in order to assess where they are, what their eating habits consists of, and so on, to further track their current state of health.
In May of 1996, the Junior Canadian Rangers (JCR) were established. Their basic vision, goals and overall objective is to teach their members to embrace culture and traditions, promote healthier living and positive self-image. This positive self-image reflects, not only upon themselves, but the legacy of the Canadian Rangers and what it represents. They encourage youth to engage with their communities as well as to teach them the necessary skills needed to become fully fledged Rangers. Throughout Canada, there are currently 3,400 youth between the ages of 12 and 18 participating in over 125 different patrols. The Yukon’s JCR had their most recent camp at the “Long Ago People’s Place” outside of Champagne, Yukon. There the young people participated in a wide range of activities, from horse-back riding, raft building, snare setting, firearms and chainsaw safety — all necessary activities for Junior Night’s Watch, I mean Junior Rangers. It is clear, these Junior Rangers had the time of their lives. As one of the youth participants said, “I like how close we all became; it’s a lot more fun out there.” Another commented on the sense of freedom: they felt, out on the land, with their fellow Junior Rangers.
Though they need not take an oath or give up their identities along with everything they own, the Canadian Ranger Patrol and the Junior Rangers are the protectors of the north. They patrol our vast, formidable (notably wall-less) lands, assisting with the challenges of living where we do. The mentorship of Junior Rangers ensures that CRP values and skills are passed on to assist us in the future. The security that they provide the north is understated but, when winter is coming, they are absolutely crucial to our communities.