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How the Canadian Rangers are responding to COVID-19 in the N.W.T.'s Sahtu

The federal government said the Canadian Rangers would help respond to COVID-19 in N.W.T. communities. Here's what that actually means.

Scope of work includes delivering food, water, medication and COVID-19 information

Canadian Rangers in the field in 2020. Rangers are helping communities in the N.W.T. respond to a surge of COVID-19 cases. (Submitted by Sgt. Peter Moon)

Approximately 15 Canadian Rangers are being activated to support N.W.T. communities dealing with a surge of COVID-19 cases, according to the Canadian Armed Forces, and as of Monday, the territory said eight of them had been deployed so far.

It's a resource the federal government announced over the weekend, along with support from the Canadian Red Cross, which one community leader says will be a "terrific asset." 

Frank Pope, the mayor in Norman Wells, said Sunday two Rangers had become available in his town. 

"They're doing stuff like delivering groceries to people, making sure medication is delivered to people who need it, to just help take supplies around the community," he said. 

"They're just doing whatever they're being asked to by their municipal leadership." 

Julie Green, the territory's health minister, told CBC News on Monday the Rangers are "wide open in terms of what they're able to do and willing to do." 

"We had heard, at one point, that the sewage truck and water truck drivers were both sick in one of the communities and so that is something that's an essential service so we might need Rangers to take that on," she said. 

Fort Good Hope Chief Tommy Kakfwi called the federal assistance "comforting" on Sunday.

Along with the two Rangers deployed in Norman Wells, Green said two Rangers had also been deployed in each of the communities of Fort Good Hope, Tulita and Délı̨nę. As of Monday, there were no Rangers available in Colville Lake, she said. 

Green said Rangers who already live in affected communities are "mostly" the ones being called on to help, but noted that some aren't able to be deployed because of positive COVID-19 tests. 

Pope also pointed out that Rangers have other jobs and aren't always available.

In an email to CBC News over the weekend, Cpt. Dawn O'Connor, a public affairs officer with the Canadian Joint Operations Command of the CAF, said personnel were to be available in communities no later than Monday.

She said CAF would also provide up to five additional staff "for planning support" in Yellowknife, and that more support in the hub city is available if requested by the territorial government. 

The support will be in place for an initial 14 days, said O'Connor, and two more 14-day "contingency options" are possible. 

The CAF's response to the pandemic is dubbed Project Laser. Under its scope, O'Connor said personnel are able to work with local and territorial emergency operations and command posts, provide logistical and general support, help deliver food, water, firewood and care packages in communities, and distribute COVID-19 information.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Liny Lamberink

Reporter/Editor

Liny Lamberink is a reporter for CBC North. She moved to Yellowknife in March 2021, after working as a reporter and newscaster in Ontario for five years. She can be reached at liny.lamberink@cbc.ca

With files from Juanita Taylor

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