Canadian Rangers staff learn white water rescue

Soldiers learn to move individually and in teams in white water. Photo: Sgt Peter Moon.
Soldiers learn to move individually and in teams in white water. Photo: Sgt Peter Moon.

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A group of Canadian Army instructors and staff from the headquarters of the 3rd Canadian Ranger Patrol Group (3 CRPG) completed swift water rescue training to acquire the white water lifesaving skills they will take to the First Nations of Northern Ontario.

“There were a couple of reasons for the training,” said Major Douglas Ferguson, 3 CRPG’s Deputy Commanding Officer. “The first is so the instructors can get the skills they need to pass on to the Canadian Rangers in the North. The second one is to build confidence in the instructors, so they are confident when on the land and water up there.”

The Far North of Ontario has the highest number of Indigenous deaths by drowning in Canada, in part because the region has one of the largest Indigenous populations in Canada, and few people learn to swim in the cold waters during the brief summers. People also spend a great deal of time on the numerous rivers and lakes.

Army instructors travel on a regular basis from 3 CRPG headquarters at Canadian Forces Base (CFB) Borden, Ont., to provide a range of training, including water safety, to the 630 Canadian Rangers in 23 First Nations across Ontario’s Far North. These instructors travel regularly by boat and frequently encounter swift water and white water conditions.

The swift water training was conducted over three days on the Shadow River, downstream from the Magnetawan Falls, north of Parry Sound.

“I’m not an avid swimmer and, yes, I was nervous,” said Warrant Officer Dan Stortz, an Army instructor. “I was surprised by the power of the water. It was hard on the body and was mentally challenging, but once you knew what you were doing, it was a whole lot easier. It was an excellent course and I’m going to pass on what I learned to the Rangers.”

The soldiers learned to recognize the depth and strength of the fast moving water and how to use it to reach people in need of rescue. They learned how to use hand signals to overcome the noise of the water, various knots and pulley systems, rope work, and how to work individually as well as in teams.

“The training taught you how to read the water,” Maj Ferguson said. ‘It taught you [how to] make sure you yourself are safe, but still able to get to a person who is trapped in a safe manner and rescue them.

“I was absolutely surprised by the power of the water. It takes control of you. So it’s a matter of working with the water. You do not have any control over it. The only thing you have is being able to judge the best way for that water to take you to where you want to go.”

Image gallery

  • An Army instructor dives into fast-moving water during rescue training. Photo: Sgt Peter Moon.
  • Leading Seaman Christina Gillis clutches a carabiner clip attached to a rescue rope during swift water rescue training. Photo: Sgt Peter Moon.
  • Soldiers learn to move individually and in teams in white water. Photo: Sgt Peter Moon.
  • Soldiers work as a team to carry a rescued "victim" to the river bank. Photo: Sgt Peter Moon.
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