Some alarm bells are sounding over the health of Canada’s northern patrollers.
Canada’s Arctic is a vast and very scarcely populated land. To provide sovereignty patrols, security from potential foreign threats or to detect and react to emergency situations, a group called the Canadian Rangers was established in 1947.
Comprised mostly of Inuit and northern Cree, they have some basic military training. But while they work in conjunction with the Canadian military, they are not part of the regular Canadian Forces.
The part-time volunteers are the eyes and ears of the military in areas around where they live. They aren’t reservists, but for administrative purposes, they’re listed as part of the Canadian Armed Forces Reserve.
A 2010 Radio Canada International report looks at the Canadian Rangers:
Report raises concerns
In a report last year, and obtained by the CBC through an Access to Information request, the military chaplain for “Joint Task Force- North” (JTF-N) expressed concern over what is listed as a “significant number” of deaths among Rangers and Junior Rangers in the past four years..
Some 49 Rangers have died in that brief period, although most were due to health issues. Only one was directly related to service activity. The Department of Defence says most deaths were due to accidents like drowning and to health-related causes like heart disease and diabetes.
The Chaplain’s report also mentioned that about half the instructors were unable to go on patrol, apparently due to stress-related issues.
Review to be launched
This week the military ombudsman said a full review of the Rangers situation will be launched in the next 90 days once the scope of the investigation is established. A review of everything from health care, fitness, and injury reporting is expected to last six to nine months to complete.
There are about 5,000 Rangers who serve in more than 200 communities across the Canadian north and northern Hudson Bay. The largest unit is the 1st Canadian Ranger Patrol Group, with 3,400 members.
Related stories from around the North:
Canada: Canadian Rangers celebrate 20 years in northern Ontario, Radio Canada International
Denmark: Nordics to step up security cooperation on perceived Russian threat, Yle News
Finland: Finland confirms 6th Russian airspace violation in just over a year, Yle News
Iceland: U.S. military could return to Iceland, Barents Observer
Norway: Norway must ramp up military in response to Russia: report, Barents Observer
Russia: Russian governor praises role of Barents Cooperation, Barents Observer
Sweden: New security landscape in the Arctic, Radio Sweden
United States: U.S. general says Alaska military cuts not final without Arctic plan, Alaska Public Radio Network