Canadian Rangers Respond to Crises in Northern Ontario

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Article / June 29, 2017 / Project number: 17-09-06-3crpg

By Lonny Kates, 4th Canadian Division Public Affairs

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The Canadian Armed Forces (CAF) recently deployed a number of Canadian Rangers, from 3rd Canadian Ranger Patrol Group (3 CRPG), based in Borden, Ontario to two isolated First Nations communities in Northern Ontario to provide help in response to a number of suicides that sent kids in these regions into a mental health crisis. 

Wapakeka First Nation and Nibinamik First Nation, located approximately 600 kilometres north of Thunder Bay, Ontario, declared emergencies in their communities in June 2017 and asked for outside government help. The Canadian Rangers acknowledged the request for support to the people of Wapekeka and Nibinamik and sent resources to the communities in a matter of days, giving the province and other government departments time to get further assistance organized.

As members of First Nations communities, Canadian Rangers are responsive to the unique needs of northern communities. They work closely with the local band councils and other agencies to address the situations until CAF assistance is no longer required.

Three Canadian Ranger Instructors and 13 Canadian Rangers went to Nibinamik while four Canadian Ranger Instructors and 20 Canadian Rangers deployed to Wapekeka.

“We aren’t counsellors. This isn’t a mental health response,” said Lieutenant-Colonel Matthew Richardson, commanding officer of 3 CRPG. “We are there as a stop gap for the other government agencies to develop their response to the critical situation.”

While in these communities, the Rangers conducted suicide prevention patrols and organized activities to engage the community’s youth through leading numerous activities including pitching tents, chopping wood, building fires and fishing.

The response from the community has been very positive. “We are grateful for the assistance of the Canadian Rangers, who have mobilized to assist with the suicide crisis,” said the Nishnawbe Aski Nation (NAN) in a prepared statement. “This response is unprecedented, and we are certain the Rangers’ presence bring a sense of great comfort and security to the community.”  NAN represents 49 First Nations across Northern Ontario, including Wapekeka and Nibinamik.

The Canadian Rangers who provided assistance in these First Nations communities have since redeployed as other governmental departments and agencies carry on the positive work accomplished by the Canadian Rangers during the summer.  Should the need arise for further aid in the future, the Rangers, as with any request for assistance, always stand ready to deliver any support the Government of Canada may request.

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