Rangers may soon return to Watson Lake

The money needed to reinstate a Canadian Rangers patrol in Watson Lake is at the ready, says Capt. Conrad Schubert.

The money needed to reinstate a Canadian Rangers patrol in Watson Lake is at the ready, says Capt. Conrad Schubert.

All they need is someone to lead it.

The Watson Lake patrol closed in 1999 when the sergeant in charge no longer wanted to be at the helm, said Schubert, deputy commanding officer of the First Canadian Ranger Patrol Group.

Before the former sergeant quit, his co-Rangers continued to elect him as sergeant against his will for two to three years, said Schubert.

“I think out of a sense of obligation to the guys who chose him, he stayed as a sergeant,” added Schubert. The individual even wrote a letter to the Canadian Rangers headquarters in Yellowknife before finally leaving his post.

While there is no guarantee that the same problem couldn’t happen again, support for the opening of a patrol in Watson Lake is tremendous, said Schubert.

Two years ago, someone in the Watson Lake area wrote a letter to the Canadian Forces showing interest in reinstating a patrol group; it demonstrated broad support for a patrol, he added.

“There’s a letter from the band and council, and council members who want to be Rangers,” said Schubert.

“It was one of the most complete (letters). It arrived in a package with letters of support from Dennis Fentie, the MLA, and definitely there was a letter from Larry Bagnell as well.”

The selection process for creating a patrol group comes from the grassroots, not from HQ, said Schubert.

“There is a selection process, if you want to call it that. If a community wants a patrol, we don’t go to a community. We don’t actively recruit Rangers. So Ranger patrols select their members themselves. A member presents themselves to the patrol either formally or informally and say, ‘I’d like to open a patrol here.’”

Following an initial show of interest, the would-be Rangers must demonstrate that they have the backing of the community, most notably from the chief and council, said Schubert.

The final phase involves writing a list of potential Rangers in the area.

“Now we have a nucleus of a patrol and the support of the community,” said Schubert.

Nine years after the patrol’s closing, all Watson Lake needs is a sergeant to lead it once again. The two-year-old letter suggests it could be different this time around.

“This time when the letter was written, there’s a fellow from Carcross who moved to Watson Lake and who is quite eager, competent and who is quite keen to be a leader,” said Schubert

“Should he still be interested we would have a patrol leader there for at least the immediate future, possibly the mid-term.”

The Canadian Rangers are also going to need the help of the former Rangers from the closed patrol, said Schubert.

“We certainly hope that the other individuals come back,” he said.

The Canadian Rangers have received no letters of interest from any other communities in the Yukon, said Schubert.

In total, there are nine patrols in the Yukon.

Watson Lake is the odd-man out when it comes to Canadian Ranger coverage in the territory. With a population of 846, it dwarfs much smaller communities that have a Rangers presence.

“There’s a satellite patrol in Beaver Creek and it has a population of under 50,” said Schubert. “They go to Haines Junction to go on patrol exercise with the Haines Junction patrol.” (Beaver Creek has a population of 112 according to the 2006 census.)

Yukon MP Larry Bagnell still supports reinstating a patrol in Watson Lake, though he could not confirm precisely when and with whom he initially made his interest known.

“It’s also good to get people involved,” said Bagnell, “quite often it’s people that are quite familiar in the bush.”

The Rangers would be useful for rescue missions outside city limits, said Bagnell.

The Rangers aren’t necessarily part of emergency measures, said Michael Templeton, manager of the Emergency Measures Organization.

The EMO do not call the Rangers because there is a procedure to get the military involved, said Templeton.

“But there are a lot of members of the Ranger patrol who also volunteer with the search and rescue team in the Yukon,” he added.