Response to Motion No. 725 re: Canadian Rangers

Below is an excerpt from Sandy Silver's response to Motion No. 725, standing in the name of the Member for Vuntut Gwitchin.

THAT this House urges the Yukon government to continue to support the Canadian Rangers and their Yukon Patrols in local exercises that provide skills and abilities in order that the Rangers can help support local functions such as the Yukon Quest among many others.

I, like many other members of this Legislature, recognize the invaluable role the Canadian Rangers play in our communities. Their presence in the Yukon obviously dates back, as we were told today in the tribute, beginning in 1947, when they were mandated to be the eyes and the ears of the Canadian military in the Arctic.

During World War II, their predecessor, the Pacific Coast Militia Rangers, patrolled western Canada and kept a military presence along the Pacific, in case there were any invasion attempts made by Japanese soldiers. The Canadian Rangers continue to play an important role for the Canadian military in the north. They are locals with a long background in traditional knowledge of the land, the weather and — most importantly — the survival skills needed for some of Canada’s most remote frontiers. They support search and rescue missions in the Arctic and they report any suspicious activity that they do see as well.

For many years, the Canadian Rangers have provided support to the Yukon Quest. Although they are in place to help break trail for the Yukon Quest mushers, last year they played an even more important role. When race leader Brent Sass fell on the trail in the 2014 quest, it was the Rangers who came to his rescue, providing first aid on-site and assisting him with getting into the Braeburn checkpoint.

Similarly when musher Tony Angelo pushed his emergency help button between 40-Mile and Dawson City, the Canadian Rangers were the first ones on scene and they were not only able to transport Tony, but also 12 of his dogs to safety.

A May letter to the editor from Yukon Quest executive director Laurie Parris stated that — and I quote: “The 31st annual Yukon Quest 1,000 Mile International Sled Dog Race overcame many challenges en route to a successful finish in 2014. That success would not have been possible without the support of the Canadian Rangers.”

Unfortunately the relationship between the Yukon Quest and many other community events that lie outside of the primary mandate of the Canadian Rangers can be very unpredictable. We have seen announcements in the past where, for budgetary reasons, Ottawa has removed the Rangers from participating in the Yukon Quest. I have heard from some of my constituents that this is a concern and that it might also be a concern for the upcoming 2015 race. In response to these concerns I took a proactive approach of contacting the commanding officer.

 I would just like to read into the record a letter that I sent to Major Craig Volstad, the commanding officer of the 1st Canadian Ranger Patrol Group on October 24 of this year. It says, “Dear Major Volstad: It is my understanding that the Department of National Defence is considering reducing or withdrawing completely Canadian Ranger support for the Yukon Quest for budgetary purposes. For many reasons this isn’t good for the Yukon, the Yukon Quest or the public image of the Rangers, for that matter.

“I am writing to request this vital service be continued. These trails provide for the greater community, not just the Yukon Quest. They are used by school hunting programs, for example, and they are an important part of the Trek Over the Top tourism event.

“The trail is also used by Arctic Ultra race and tourist outfitters also use the route after the Yukon Quest for dog sled tourism.

“Thank you for your consideration of this request.” Sincerely, MLA for Klondike.

As we debate this motion, I do encourage the Premier to contact his counterparts in Ottawa to ensure that the Rangers continue to be a part of the Yukon Quest this year and going forward and also let his counterpart in Ottawa know how vital the Rangers are to Yukoners, not just for the Yukon Quest, but for all of their endeavours.

The Rangers are not just a significant symbol of life in the north, but they are an important active part of it. I want to keep it that way.