Protectors of the north

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Raisins in the pudding is an analogy used by Joint Task Force North Maj. Conrad Schubert to describe the role of the Canadian Rangers in the North.

The Canadian Armed Forces has three bureaus – one in each of the territories – the Yukon, Northwest Territories and Nunavut. Schubert said the Canadian Ranger Patrol Group help the forces keep an active presence in remote Northern locations.

“They are the extra raisins in the pudding that help us enhance our knowledge of the North,” said Schubert during Operation Nunalivut on Monday.

Resolute Bay Canadian Ranger, Master Corporal Matthew Manik, 37, poses for a photo after speaking to media about his role in Operation Nunalivut. Manik instructed members of the Second Battalion Princess Patricia’s Canadian Light Infantry on how to build windbreaks out of snow on Intrepid Bay on Mar. 13. Michael Hugall/NNSL photo

The Canadian Rangers played an active role during last weekend’s operations in Cambridge Bay and Resolute. The rangers were out in the field helping soldiers build windbreaks on Intrepid Bay, fixing broken snowmobiles and sharing knowledge on surviving the extreme cold.

Brig. Gen. Mike Nixon said whenever forces travel North of the 60th parallel there is always a ranger aspect close by.

“It means everything. When you travel east-to-west across the Arctic, each group has a very unique skill set for the areas in where they reside,” said Nixon. “The rangers are a part of the army, the two parties collaborating up here is no different than two divisions in the south getting together and conducting operations together.”

Matthew Manik, 37, was at Intrepid Bay on Tuesday to instruct members of the Second Battalion Princess Patricia’s Canadian Light Infantry on Tuesday. During the mission Matthew was teaching soldiers the proper technique used to create windbreaks. To make the windbreaks, Manik instructed soldiers to carve igloo style blocks out of the snow. Soldiers then stacked the blocks of snow three-rows high until Manik stepped in and tore it down. Manik then took matters into his own hands carving and stacking the snow in front of the tent.

“They are always asking questions,” said Manik. “I just tell them what I do and then they try and do it the way I said.”

Though part of the military, not all decisions made by the armed forces are made with the thought of the rangers in mind. When asked if the rangers were talked to in regards to the CAF’s initiative to design warmer gear, Defence Research Development Canada scientist Wendy Sullivan-Kwantes said the rangers were not consulted, adding she doesn’t feel they would be receptive to the forces’ recommendations.

In 2016 during Operation Arctic Ram, Defence Research Development Canada studied the impact of cold weather injuries on soldiers. Their research shows 80 soldiers were affected by some aspect of frostbite. However the same research was not conducted on members of the Canadian Rangers.

Cold weather injuries are the number one reason why soldiers are taken out of these types of operations, said Arctic Operations Advisory, Capt. Wayne Leblanc.

“We never question that it’s an issue of our kit, if there is an issue we acknowledge that it’s being worked on,” said Leblanc. “ Fortunately for the past three years since Sgt. Woodworth and I have been up here we have not lost a soldier to frostbite.”

Both the rangers and the armed forces wear similar gear, however, the material used for the ranger’s gear often comes from furs and pelts and are handcrafted. The armed forces use synthetic materials scientifically designed for the cold.

“If you’re going to do research and include the Canadian Rangers in a completely different project,” said DRDC scientist, Wendy Sullivan-Kwantes. “There is an initiative by the Canadian government to do research on the Indigenous population in the North and that’s something we will look at in the future … but to date when we bring our troops to the Arctic from the south what they would do is typically different than what the rangers are used to doing on their land.”

Sullivan-Kwates adds the rangers are at risk of the same type of cold weather injuries.

There is approximately 1,500 rangers dispersed throughout the North, a majority being from First Nations, Metis and Inuit backgrounds.