Honorary Lieutenant-Colonel Whitney Lackenbauer explores the roles of the Canadian Rangers - video

Video / May 31, 2017 / Project number: 17-0010


(The green Canadian Rangers logo quickly appears on screen. Three maple leaves, a rifle and an axe are stamped into the middle of the Ranger shield, with a red banner marking 70 years of the Canadian Rangers 1947-2017 appearing immediately below in white text.)

(Scene opens with Honorary Lieutenant-Colonel Whitney Lackenbauer sitting off to the right of the screen with small cabins appearing in the background.)

Honorary Lieutenant-Colonel Whitney Lackenbauer: The Canadian Rangers really were born of the emerging idea of a Cold War in 1946 and 1947, and the dilemma of how Canada was going to defend such a great big country, with such a sparse Northern population.

(Cut to a black-and-white still image of a remote city centre. There are a few buildings and houses, with waterfront and foliage.)

So one of the solutions was, what about going and turning to the people who live in those areas themselves?

(Cut to a black-and-white still image of six men dressed in winter gear, standing in the snow. Two of the men are exchanging a handshake.)

Giving them a light amount of equipment, only a rifle and a couple of hundred rounds of ammunition. The uniform consisted of an armband, give them very modest training and basically ask these people to serve as eyes and ears for the Canadian military in their regions.

(Cut to a black-and-white still image of an Aboriginal family standing outside of a tent looking out in the distance at a military vessel in the water.)

When they saw something strange, like a submarine, or when they saw strange vessels or strange aircraft, to go to whoever they could with a radio to be able to communicate back down south what they’d seen.

(Cut to a black-and-white still image of a helicopter approaching a snow-covered landing space. One person points to the helicopter as he holds on to sled dogs.)

At other times they undertook search and rescue and also played a key role in guiding and assisting southern forces that came north to their homeland to go and actually operate.

(Cut to an interactive map of Canada that highlights with red dots areas where Ranger Patrol Groups could be located as of December 1956.)

So the Rangers slowly took shape in the 1940s and early 1950s. Growing out not only in to the Territorial North, but also down in the Pacific Coast, and also out into what became Newfoundland and Labrador. It grew modestly into about 2,700 people by 1957 and then the Canadian military took a different approach to defending its remote areas.

(Cut to a black-and-white still of satellite equipment set up on snow covered land.)

Things changed with the onset of the Soviet bomber threat and the creation of dramatic radar lines, particularly Distant Early Warning lines spanning the Canadian arctic which seemed to render obsolete both the threat of a land force invasion and the need for people on the ground to be looking to the skies.

(Cut to a historical black-and-white still image of a group of Rangers dressed in winter gear.)

So a lot of the attention shifted away from the Rangers who were there on the ground. They continued a very quiet existence during the 1960s, so that by the end of that decade, the Rangers really didn’t have as clear of a role anymore.

(Cut to a medium shot of Honorary Lieutenant-Colonel Whitney Lackenbauer sitting off to the right of the screen with small cabins appearing in the background.)

By the early 1970s, the military faced the dilemma of whether to actually shut down and disband the Rangers, or recreate it in a different form. And they chose the latter option. So the Rangers were re-stood up. In the North, it was very much decided by sovereignty issues now, following the test run of an American super tanker, to see whether or not the North West passage in Canada’s waters would actually be used as a transit route to carry American oil down to the Eastern seaboard from Alaska.

So there was one part of the Ranger organization focused on the Territories. At the same time, a second organization of Rangers focussed on the Atlantic, particularly Newfoundland and Labrador and the Northern shore of Quebec to continue to be coast watchers.

(Cut to a still image of two female rangers reading a map.)

So these two organizations persisted up until the late 1980s. At this moment, there was a tremendous focus on what the Rangers could offer in the Arctic, which propelled a tremendous period of growth in the 1980s and 90s.

(Cut to an interactive map highlighting the 5 distinct regions with 1st Canadian Ranger Patrol Group in the North, 2nd Canadian Ranger Patrol Group in Quebec, 3rd Canadian Ranger Patrol Group in Ontario, 4th  Canadian RangerPatrol Group in the West and 5th Canadian Ranger Patrol Group in the East.)

By 1998, when the Canadian Ranger Patrol Groups were stood up, representing five distinct regions of Canada we truly, once again had a coast-to-coast-to-coast organization.

(Cut to a wide shot of a Ranger patrol coming across the snow-covered land on snowmobiles)

By the new millennium, their tasks had changed to get rid of a combat focus, so very much a focus on support to domestic operations and support to sovereignty operations.

(Cut to a shot of a Ranger working together with a Junior Ranger as they are being taught how to use a chainsaw.)

But at the same time, a continued presence at a local level, serving local needs, be it addressing avalanches, forest fires or humanitarian emergencies. So this wonderful balance has been maintained over time between National military interests, being able to support southern troops that come into the regions and at the same time being able to address local needs, a balance that I think has persisted very strongly over 70 years and has now, I think, come to be very much respected and appreciated for what it offers.

(Cut to a medium shot of Honorary Lieutenant-Colonel Whitney Lackenbauer seated on the steps of a cabin with an unidentified Ranger. They share a laugh together.)

I often say to Rangers at the end of a training exercise, or when I’ve interacted with them, that at the end, they genuinely make me prouder to be Canadian.

(Cut to a shot of Honorary Lieutenant-Colonel Whitney Lackenbauer standing in between an unidentified male and an unidentified female Ranger. They smile broadly.)

(Fade to black. Fade to title reading: Strong. Proud. Ready. Forts. Fiers. Prêts.)

(Fade to National Defence identifier and copyright information. Fade to Canada wordmark.)



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