Canadian Rangers complete SAR training with the Ontario Provincial Police
By Sergeant Peter Moon, 3rd Canadian Ranger Patrol Group
A group of Canadian Rangers from Northern Ontario completed a challenging two weeks of Search and Rescue (SAR) training with the Ontario Provincial Police (OPP) in September.
“The OPP have given us an opportunity to learn how to do a better job of searching for missing people,” said Master Corporal Jason Hunter of Peawanuck, a fly-in community close to the Hudson Bay coast, and a veteran of several SAR missions.
The small Cree community still relies on the land and traditional hunting and fishing for much of their food, he said, “and life can be dangerous if you are not careful.”
As a result members of the local Ranger patrol are called upon every year to conduct SAR missions when local people go missing or are overdue.
The training, which mimicked the training received by members of the OPP’s Elite Emergency Response Teams, took place at Canadian Forces Base Borden. It was held both in a classroom setting and outdoors, in daylight and at night, at various locations around the base. It concluded with two exercises along the Base’s Pine River and in Mono Cliffs Provincial Park.
The Rangers, who are part-time army reservists, have a unique relationship with the OPP. They are the only Rangers in Canada who receive police SAR training, and have a formal agreement to carry out SAR missions on behalf of the police. The OPP are the lead agency for SAR in Ontario, a role assumed by the Quebec provincial police in Quebec, and the RCMP in the rest of Canada.
Assembling and dispatching a trained OPP SAR team into a remote First Nation may take up to eight hours or longer, depending on the weather, said Sergeant John Meaker, the OPP’s SAR coordinator. By then, he said, the Rangers have usually found the missing person or persons.
“The Rangers have local knowledge of their communities that we do not have. They usually know the missing person and their hunting areas. They are experts on the land,” he said.
The periodic SAR training courses the OPP provides for selected Rangers are of huge value, said Lieutenant-Colonel Matthew Richardson, who commands the 650 Rangers in 24 First Nations across the Far North of Northern Ontario.
“You can’t put a dollar figure on the value of the OPP training. The OPP gives us the time of their officers and the benefits of their specialist training. And the Rangers save lives every year. It is a tremendous partnership,” added Lcol Richardson.
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