Ruckle Park had some not-so-usual company last week with members of the Canadian Armed Forces and a number of youth from distant spots in Canada among the campers.
From Aug. 10 to 19, the park served as home base for 29 youth from remote communities in Canada and several support staff for the 2019 National Leader Enhanced Training Session of the Junior Canadian Ranger Program.
The NLETS camp is held each summer for qualifying junior rangers aged 16 to 18. Last summer the session was held in Gros Morne National Park in Newfoundland. This year marks the 20th anniversary of the annual gathering.
Junior Canadian Rangers strive to be leaders in their communities, which are located in northern Canada or other isolated areas where personal growth opportunities might be more limited.
“The JCR program is all about small-scale nation building,” explained Maj. Scott Macdonald, Officer Commanding JCR Company, 4th Canadian Ranger Patrol Group, who has been the lead organizer of several NLETS camps.
Bringing youth from several provinces and territories together to create mutual understanding and bonds has real value, say the organizers.
“They are going to be ambassadors for their region of the country to other kids,” added Capt. Chris DeMerchant, Training Officer, JCR Company, 4th CRPG.
Participants engage in physical challenges and leadership-enhancing exercises, while honing traditional, life and Ranger skills.
Besides having the experience of camping at Ruckle Park, some of the Salt Spring activities undertaken were kayaking, rock climbing, swimming at Rainbow Road Pool and learning about permaculture at Offhand Farm.
“They are really eating it up and enjoying their experience here,” said DeMerchant last Thursday.
Arianne Marcoux is a 16-year-old participant from the remote village of Chevery, Que. The expedition to the west coast was Marcoux’s first trip out of her home province.
“In my community, I know everyone,” she said. “We’re 300 people and we see each other every day. Being here with people from all across Canada and learning about their different ways of life and cultures, it really opened my mind to what our country is like.”
As for impressions of Salt Spring, she said, “At first I thought the trees are huge here compared to where I’m from. I feel a little more at home on this island than I thought I would because the sea is right there and I live by the sea.”
Some 4,300 youth aged 12 to 18 across Canada are currently members of the Junior Canadian Rangers, with leadership provided by Canadian Rangers, who are part of the Canadian Armed Forces Reserve.
The program is funded primarily by the Department of National Defence and the Canadian Armed Forces, with support from other levels of government and private corporations.
Basic and advanced training sessions are also held each year for JCRs.