Camp OKPIAPIK marks 25th anniversary of Junior Canadian Rangers Program

“I love seeing the kids enjoying activities and meeting new people,” says Canadian Ranger MCpl Minnie Ittoshat from the Nunavik community of Kuujjuarapik (left), pictured here with Junior Canadian Ranger Velesie Adams from Ivujivik (right), at Camp OKPIAPIK 2023. (2nd Canadian Ranger Patrol Group)

A major activity for the Junior Canadian Rangers is currently underway in Quebec, bringing more than 250 youth from around the province to the Valcartier Cadet Training Center in Quebec City.

Velesie Adams, a Junior Canadian Ranger from Ivujivik, a community in the Inuit region of Nunavik, has generations of family members that were involved in the program and knew she wanted to be part of it as well. 

“My family is full of Junior Rangers and Rangers for so many years and I wanted to follow in their footsteps,” Adams told Eye on the Arctic in a phone interview.

She said even though she’s an introvert, participating  in the camp this week is already making a big impact.

“I most enjoy seeing the people in forms, doing the drills, seeing other people making teamwork,” Adams said.

Junior Canadian Rangers colour and sign the Camp souvenir banner marking the 25th anniversary of the JCR Program, at Valcartier Cadet Training Center (VCTC), June 24, 2023. (Sgt Dominic Rossi, Public Affairs, 2 GPRC)

Canadian Ranger MCpl Minnie Ittoshat from the Nunavik community of Kuujjuarapik, has attended the camp 17 times, first as Junior Ranger herself, and then as an adult as a Ranger. She said watching the kids blossom during the gatherings is one of the things she finds most rewarding.

“For some kids it’s their first time down South and meeting a lot of people,” she said. “I love seeing the kids enjoying activities and meeting new people.

“When I was a junior, I loved exchanging about what we did in my community with [others]. Now, with the kids I’m taking care of, I love it when they interact because they’re also going to remember it the way I remember my first Junior Ranger camp and [everything] they did and who they met.”

Long history in Canada

The Canadian Rangers are part-time reservists within the Canadian Armed Forces. Rangers are not trained combat soldiers, but with their knowledge of their local environments and ability to easily navigate in the country’s harshest and most challenging regions, they act as the military’s eyes and ears.

There are approximately 5,000 Rangers located in 200 of Canada’s most remote and isolated communities. The majority of the communities, located in the North and on the country’s east and west coasts, are Indigenous.

A map showing the five Canadian Ranger Patrol Groups. (Department of Defence)

The Rangers are tasked with reporting anything they see that’s out of the order in the lands and waters around their communities. Other roles encompass everything from inspecting North Warning System sites for things like storm damage, to disaster relief and response, to performing search and rescue operations or participating in community events. 

They also help supervise activities with the Junior Rangers, a youth program started in the mid-1990s, to teach traditional and life skills, as well as Ranger activities.

25th anniversary of youth program

During Camp OKPIAPIK, participants are taking part in outdoor and traditional activities as well as practicing land and Ranger skills.

The Junior Rangers participating come from 36 remote and isolated Quebec communities. Forty-five Canadian Rangers (CR) and 36 members of 2 CRPG Headquarters are also participating.

Camp OKPIAPIK, which means little white owl in Inuktitut, is the summer Enhanced Training Session (ETS) offered to Junior Canadian Rangers (JCR). The Camp takes place from June 24 to July 2, 2023, at the Valcartier Cadets Training Center (VCTC) in Quebec City. (Sgt Dominic Rossi, Public Affairs, 2 GPRC)

“Camp OKPIAPIK is the major youth activity of the 2nd Canadian Ranger Patrol Group, and it is with honour that we mark the 25th anniversary of this youth program which is possible thanks to the support of the communities, adult committees and the Canadian Rangers Patrols,” Lieutenant Colonel Nicolas Hilaréguy, 2nd Canadian Ranger Patrol Group Commanding Officer, said in a statement.

Camp OKPIAPIK runs June 24 to July 2.

Comments, tips or story ideas? Contact Eilís at eilis.quinn(at) 

Related stories from around the North:  

Canada: The Canadian Rangers at 75: The Eyes and Ears of the North, Eye on the Arctic

FinlandConnection to nature, concern for environment amongst results of Sami youth survey, Eye on the Arctic

Norway: Creating youth links key to driving Canadian-Norwegian cooperation, conference hears, Eye on the Arctic

Russia: Wagner Group continues recruiting in Murmansk in Arctic Russia, The Independent Barents Observer

United States:  U.S. general says Alaska military cuts not final without Arctic plan, Alaska Public Radio Network

Eilís Quinn, Eye on the Arctic

Eilís Quinn is an award-winning journalist and manages Radio Canada International’s Eye on the Arctic news cooperation project. Eilís has reported from the Arctic regions of all eight circumpolar countries and has produced numerous documentary and multimedia series about climate change and the issues facing Indigenous peoples in the North.

Her investigative report "Death in the Arctic: A community grieves, a father fights for change," about the murder of Robert Adams, a 19-year-old Inuk man from Arctic Quebec, received the silver medal for “Best Investigative Article or Series” at the 2019 Canadian Online Publishing Awards. The project also received an honourable mention for excellence in reporting on trauma at the 2019 Dart Awards in New York City.

Her report “The Arctic Railway: Building a future or destroying a culture?” on the impact a multi-billion euro infrastructure project would have on Indigenous communities in Arctic Europe was a finalist at the 2019 Canadian Association of Journalists award in the online investigative category.

Her multimedia project on the health challenges in the Canadian Arctic, "Bridging the Divide," was a finalist at the 2012 Webby Awards.

Her work on climate change in the Arctic has also been featured on the TV science program Découverte, as well as Le Téléjournal, the French-Language CBC’s flagship news cast.

Eilís has worked for media organizations in Canada and the United States and as a TV host for the Discovery/BBC Worldwide series "Best in China."

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