Canadian Rangers train with Ontario Provincial Police search and rescue specialists

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By Sergeant Peter Moon, 3rd Canadian Rangers Patrol Group

Nibinamik and Wapekeka, Ontario — The Canadian Rangers trained with three Ontario Provincial Police (OPP) officers in a major Canadian Army search and rescue exercise in Nibinamik and Wapekeka, two remote First Nations more than 500 kilometres north of Thunder Bay.

“My eyes were opened by what we saw them doing,” said Sergeant Keith Nicolle, the OPP’s emergency response team leader for Northeastern Ontario.

More than 100 Rangers from 17 First Nations took part in the week-long exercise, which included classroom sessions and challenging search drills in the field. The Rangers ran through scenarios typical of the kinds of search operations that they conduct regularly, including overdue hunters, missing teenagers, and reports of people falling through the ice.

The Rangers in Northern Ontario have a unique relationship with the OPP. They are the only Rangers in Canada who receive police training in search and rescue, and have a formal agreement to conduct search and rescue on behalf of the police. The OPP are the lead agency for search and rescue in Ontario – a role assumed by the Quebec provincial police in Quebec and the Royal Canadian Mounted Police in the rest of Canada.

While the OPP has the primary responsibility for search and rescue in Ontario, assembling a trained OPP search and rescue team and flying them into a remote First Nation can take more than eight hours, depending on the weather. By then, the Rangers, who are part-time Army Reservists, would have usually found the missing person or persons. In 2016, the Rangers saved 32 lives in 26 successful search and rescue operations in Northern Ontario.

“We can look at a map, but they know where the rivers are, where the people go hunting,” said Sgt Nicolle. “They have skills we don’t have.”

At the same time, the OPP officers also impressed the Rangers and the Army personnel running the training.

“They didn’t just sit back and observe what the Rangers were doing,” said Sergeant Daniel Stortz, a Canadian Army instructor. “They got right in there and shared their expertise and provided guidance to the Rangers. They were a great help. It was good to see the Rangers working with them.”

For more articles, visit the Canadian Army website.

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