Recognizing Rangers
Governor general authorizes new award

Glen Korstrom
Northern News Services

NNSL (Oct 11/99) - One of former governor general Romeo Leblanc's final acts in the job was authorizing a new honour recognizing Canadian Rangers.

The honour goes to Rangers who perform special service in Canada's northern regions.

That includes not only the territories but also the northern parts of provinces.

Col. Pierre Leblanc, who is no relation to the governor general, heads the Northern division of the Canadian Forces.

He said he thinks the award will provide an incentive for people to join the Rangers.

"For those who are part of the Rangers, it will provide an incentive to serve at least for a period of time," said Leblanc.

He said the honour is really a public recognition of the contribution that the Canadian Rangers give to Canada.

On a regular basis, Canadian Rangers provide the core of search and rescue capability throughout the Arctic.

"Sometimes on a weekly basis a Ranger patrol will go out to assist an RCMP search in community X. During the winter months it is more prevalent because of the conditions but we've had searches in the summer months as well," said Leblanc.

Rangers are also instrumental in protecting Canadian sovereignty, he said.

One recent example of this came Labour Day weekend when Rangers spotted an unexpected foreign submarine off the coast of Pangnirtung.

"The initial reports that came to our headquarters came from Rangers," said Leblanc.

To Jim Hood, who is the sergeant of the Ranger patrol in Fort Smith, the award is long overdue.

"It's time the Rangers were recognized. They've been operating in the North a long time and without the Rangers there is no military presence in the North," Hood said.

"We are the eyes and ears of the community."

Hood joined the Rangers three years ago because he wanted to perform service in the community and get out on the land more.

"Basically, it was for search and rescue and to exercise our sovereignty," Hood said about why he's a Ranger.

To qualify for the new honour Rangers would have to have served for four years and have participated in three Ranger exercises either in support of Canadian Forces operations or the training that they conduct on the land, Leblanc said.

Leblanc said more than 2,000 Rangers qualify to be considered for the honour.

"We haven't been advised of when the ceremony will be yet. The governor general's agenda is still being formulated," he said.

"For the introduction of a new service medal, the intention was to have a ceremony possibly at Rideau Hall where the governor general would present sort of a sample of the decorations. Obviously, we can't bring in all the Rangers in Canada to this ceremony."