Canadian Rangers discuss their future amid COVID-19
Some Canadian Rangers are elders and therefore vulnerable, says commanding officer
Leaders of the Canadian Rangers are discussing whether to resume patrols and other activities that were suspended due to COVID-19.
Most Ranger activities have been scaled back since the end of March.
"The initial suspension stopped most of the activities that we were doing," said Lieutenant-Colonel Raymond Chiasson, commanding officer of the 1st Canadian Ranger Patrol Group based in Yellowknife.
Since March, Rangers have nevertheless been deployed in many parts of Canada to assist with pandemic-related tasks.
This includes the distribution of food hampers in various Yukon, N.W.T and Nunavut communities.
Rangers have also been involved in search-and-rescue operations, including a recent search for a boater in Tuktoyaktuk.
While the Rangers continue to assist in these situations, Chiasson says it must be considered that many rangers are elders and therefore vulnerable to the virus.
"We do have Canadian Rangers who are considered in high-risk populations due to COVID-19," Chiasson said.
The average age of Canadian Rangers is over 40 and many continue to serve into their 60s and beyond.
Rangers have potential to help during COVID-19 says leader
Chiasson says Rangers could be an important resource in case of a northern COVID-19 outbreak.
For instance, he says many Rangers' local language fluency could prove important in helping health authorities.
Chiasson says discussions are happening within 1st Canadian Ranger Patrol Group and Joint Task Force North to discuss the Rangers' future plans.
However there is still uncertainty as to what protocols will be in place, and what activities will be allowed and whether the Rangers will see changes to group size or other variables.
"Our organization still has value within the current COVID-19 situation," Chiasson said. "We need to make sure we can maintain it and make sure we're still a viable organization capable of achieving its mission."
Junior Rangers resume some activities
Junior Canadian Ranger programs were also suspended due to COVID-19 and rules around physical distancing.
One complication is that Junior Rangers in Nunavut and Yukon often see military staff visit from Yellowknife to lead workshops, competitions and camps.
Travel between the N.W.T. and Nunavut is currently allowed in a "bubble" but any officers going to from N.W.T. to Yukon would need to self-isolate upon their return.
Chiasson says there have been some signs of Junior Rangers returning.
One group in Tuktoyaktuk recently gathered to learn to use fishnets. Chiasson says this was the first Junior Ranger activity to happen in months.
"Respecting public health measures, communities are allowed to do some activities," Chiasson said.
Large-scale meetings for Junior Rangers are not being considered for the time being.