Camp gives kids chance to learn about everything from helicopters to leadership

Where dreams become Ranger reality

By Isabelle Dubois

KUUJJUAQ- Junior Rangers Aisa Alaku of Akulivik and Oqituk Cameron of Salluit cheerfully display two targets pock-marked with bullet holes, their treasured souvenirs of the 2007 Okpiapik Junior Ranger camp.

The two were delighted with the results of their target practice sessions during the annual camp, held this year near Kuujjuaq from June 26 to July 3.

Every morning, after an early breakfast, the 170 Junior Rangers at the camp headed out for a full schedule of activities, which included everything from mountain biking around the camp to rock climbing.

General Christian Barabé, the commanding officer of Quebec's military land forces, says the camp gives young people aged 12 to 18 a chance to experience things they might not otherwise have the opportunity to do – "like going on a helicopter flight for example, to make them dream and aware that their dreams can become a reality."

For Moses Kritik of Tasiujaq the helicopter trip was a dream come true.

"It has motivated me to work hard, so that I too can become a helicopter pilot one day," he said.

During Camp Okpiapik, some Junior Rangers also took part in a leadership camp. During this course, the youth are in command – and it's up to them to assess a given situation, as well as the time and resources at hand, and then proceed with getting the job done.

The goal of these lessons is for the Junior Rangers to learn to take charge and lead others. Mark Kanayuk, a Junior Ranger from Puvirnituq, said the camp put him that much closer to realizing his dream of becoming a Kativik Regional Police Force police officer.

"Through this leadership camp, we hope to see future leaders emerge, who could one day become, for example, president of the Kativik Regional Government or Makivik, or mayor of their community," Barabé says.

The Junior Rangers spent one day at Stewart Lake mastering the art of canoeing while fishing and learning survival skills out on the land. They also learned how to find their way on the land using a map and compass and worked on their concentration while target shooting with a .177 rifle or aiming a bow and arrow.

Junior Canadian Rangers from Nunavik, the James Bay Cree communities, the Naskapi communities of Kawawachikamach and Metimekush along with Innu, French and English youth from the Lower North Shore arrived in Kuujjuaq over the St-Jean-Baptiste long weekend to take part in the 2007 Okpiapik Camp, about 12 kilometres from the community.

There, a camp staff of more than 100 Rangers, instructors, army officers and medical personnel were on site to welcome the campers. The staff had set up equipment shipped in containers from Akulivik, where the camp was held last year, and worked with the municipality to get water and a sewage system at the camp.

By the time all Junior Rangers were in, everything at the camp was in place – except maybe for warmer summer weather.

But the cold weather and rain didn't keep the Junior Rangers from different places and cultural backgrounds from warming up to each other.

Six patrols of about 30 Junior Rangers, each with a few members from every region, stayed together in big heated tents, rather than being separated into smaller tents by region as they usually were in the past.

"The young people were more participative this year, they are more open and I believe that this new tent arrangements has something to do with it," says Major Guy Lang, the commanding officer of the Junior Rangers program. "Already after the first day at supper, it showed that the youth were more at ease with each other, as they eagerly shared their day's experience with one another, and then enjoyed team sports together."

Every morning the Junior Rangers woke up early to put on their uniforms, ready their tent quarters for a thorough inspection, and show up for roll call and parade drills.

But, despite the military-like discipline, the camp isn't part of any effort to recruit youth for the armed forces.

"It's an opportunity for them to learn new skills and overcome new challenges while having fun with others alike," Lang says.

Every summer, Camp Okpiapik is held in one of the Quebec Junior Rangers' communities.

But next year, the Canadian Rangers to hold the the camp in St-Jean-sur-Richelieu, at the army base, so that the Junior Rangers can take part in the Québec 2008 celebrations, which will mark the 400th anniversary of the creation of Quebec City.

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