Nunavik rangers honoured in Montreal

The Canadian Rangers who rushed to Kangiqsualujjuaq’s aid after the community’s January 1 avalanche were honoured last weekend in Montreal.


MONTREAL — Last Saturday at the Farnham military base near Montreal, Major General Maurice Baril, chief of the defense staff and head of the Canadian Forces, honoured the second Canadian Rangers patrol group for their selfless dedication and professionalism in the aftermath of Kangiqsualujjuaq’s January 1 avalanche.

Following the disaster, Nunavik Rangers rushed to provide assistance to the community.

Baril awarded the Nunavik Rangers a special unit commendation for their outstanding efforts.

“Immediately, and in many cases in spite of great personal tragedy, members of the second Rangers patrol group present in the village began rescue operations,” Baril said in his presentation speech.

“Soon, they were joined by Rangers from other patrols across Nunavik. Together, they worked in support of local authorities to rescue survivors, secure the area, and assist with the funeral preparations for the victims of the avalanche.”

Baril said the “rapid and efficient reaction” of the nearly 50 Rangers who responded to this disaster saved lives and alleviated the suffering of those affected by the avalanche.

“Wihout their dedication, the toll in human suffering would surely have been higher. The leadership and moral support the Rangers provided in the face of this crisis was invaluable,” Baril said.

Sammy Unatweenuk, from Kangiqsualujjuaq’s Ranger patrol, accepted the certificate on behalf of the 14 ranger patrols in Nunavik.

On the night of the avalanche, Unatweenuk, like others in Kangiqsualujjuaq, dug with his bare hands in the snow to uncover survivors and kept on digging right through the night until relief from Kuujjuaq’s rangers and volunteer firefighters arrived.

“This tragedy which cost the lives of nine Inuit from Kangiqsualujjuaq opened people’s eyes to the fact that the Rangers are valiant members of the Canadian Forces,” read the commendation certificate.

In honor of the commendation, the Rangers’ flag will be flown during next year at the Farnham base. The Nunavik rangers will be able to fly a special pennant in honour of the commendation. A medal also accompanied the award.

“We’re very pleased,” Mattiusi Tulugak from Puvirnituq told Nunatsiaq News. “We worked so hard — this is a special event.”

The award ceremony was attended by dignitaries from Ottawa, Quebec City and Nunavik, including Makivik Corporation President Pita Aatami, Kativik Regional Government chairman Johnny Adams, Kangiqsualujjuaq Mayor Maggie Emudluk, Kuujjuaq Mayor Michael Gordon and Nunavik MP Guy St. Julien.

Long-time Kangiqsuaqjuaq ranger Charlie Arngak also received a special medal in honour of his 22 years of service.

As Canada’s military reservists in Nunavik, Rangers are to establish a radio link with the Canadian Forces headquarters in Montreal in the event of any Y-2K breakdown in communications or during any other disaster.

“Their role is to be ready to respond, although we don’t belive there will be an emergency,” said Major Claude Archambault.

During the week in Farnham, Nunavik’s Rangers met their counterparts from the Lower North Shore region of Quebec.

They attended a regimental dinner, visited a local branch of the Canadian Legion and also took time out to go shopping and attend a hockey game in Montreal.

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