TBPS Camp Loon efforts honoured at special ceremony

Thursday, November 7, 2019 - 19:00
Thunder Bay
Date Published: 2019-11-07

Thunder Bay Police Service officers who participated in this past summer’s Camp Loon leadership and life-skills camp received official commendations from the Canadian Rangers at a special Wednesday evening ceremony.

The pair of commendations awarded to the city police was in recognition for officers providing mentorship during their Camp Loon activities and their “exuberance and professionalism” that left an “indelible and positive impression with the Indigenous youth of Northern Ontario and created a lasting relationship with the 3rd Canadian Ranger Patrol Group and 4th Canadian Division.”

Camp Loon, an initiative by the Junior Canadian Rangers program, is an annual leadership and life-skill training camp situated about 50 kilometres outside of Geraldton.

The Canadian Rangers extended an invitation for TBPS officers to participate in July, and officers accepted with hopes of establishing meaningful relationships with youth from Ontario’s far north.

Geographically, the initiative appears to be outside of the service’s City-of-Thunder Bay scope. However, due to this city being a regional hub for services, the majority of youth police connected with at Camp Loon will live, or are already living, in Thunder Bay for secondary school. 

“(TBPS officers) came in, supported that program and provided us with immense help,” said L-Col. Shane McArthur, commanding officers of the 3rd Canadian Rangers Patrol Group, explaining after the ceremony why the commendations had been awarded.

Some of that help allowed paintball, in jeopardy of being cancelled, to continue as an ongoing Camp Loon activity.

The original location of the paintball course led to transportation issues. When TBPS officers arrived they began work on building an entirely new paintball course in walking distance from the camp.

“They gave up their time, volunteered their time (over a two-week period) to come and help deliver special programs that we would have been challenged to deliver without their help,” L-Col. McArthur said.

Wednesday’s commendations ceremony took place in a Dennis Franklin Cromarty High School gymnasium – the site and evening of the Junior Canadian Rangers local programing. For L-Col. Shane McArthur, that fact was important.

Most Canadians don’t realize that youth from Ontario’s Far North have to leave their home communities. For youth who participate in the Junior Canadian Rangers program, this often means leaving the JCR as its programs are unavailable in most host cities.

Thunder Bay is now an exception.

“Last year we had about eight students; this year we have 27,” he said of the new local programing.

“It’s successful, it’s expanding and already we’re seeing dividends because already we’re seeing from the teachers that the kids are coming in with higher grades, more motivation … and their attendance is much higher.”

The local programing also gives Thunder Bay Police Service officers, many of whom are the same officers who participated in Camp Loon, a chance to reconnect with students they first met in July.

Cst. Kerry Dunning was one of those officers who took part in Camp Loon. Community Service Branch officer Cst. Gary Cambly took the lead role in arranging local officer participation and approached Cst. Dunning about the opportunity.

Looking back at his experience, Cst. Dunning said he’s glad he took advantage.

“It was really good,” he said, specifically about his time with the kids. “They were shy at first. But as time went on the kids started warming up to us.”

Officers’ main tasks at Camp Loon were to lead and manage the archery program and paintball events.  Youth were reluctant to join the activities at first, but reluctance was eventually exchanged for enthusiasm.

“Word of mouth was spreading among the kids and eventually there were so many involved that we were starting to run out of gear,” Dunning said.

After Wednesday’s ceremony wrapped up the enthusiasm continued. Officers and students, together, participated in the archery program and flung arrows at a 3D deer target.

Relationships first established between officers and students at a camp in Greenstone continued their development in that Thunder Bay high school gymnasium. 


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