Reflecting on a 75-year legacy: a discussion with the Director of the Canadian Rangers Corps

Article / March 22, 2023 / Project number: 22-0151

If you interacted with the Canadian Army (CA) at any point during the last year, you would have heard a lot about the Canadian Rangers (CR). This is due to the 75th anniversary of the CR, which was celebrated from April 2022 to end of March 2023. Now, nearing the end of this year-long anniversary, we took the time to ask a few questions about the past and future of the CR to Colonel Benoît Mainville, Director of the CR Corps.

Q: Tell us your story. How did your military career start?

A: I joined the CA Reserve 37 years ago following a moment of inattention that led me to the wrong classroom in CEGEP [Quebec’s equivalent to college]. Little did I know, this misstep was going to be the beginning of my future as in this room, I met a CA recruiter who kickstarted my military journey. Ever since, my career in the CA has been a fulfilling adventure full of interesting encounters and challenges.

Q: How did you first get involved with the CR and what is your role?

A: In 2014, while I was posted in the U.S., I met an old friend who encouraged me to join the CR. Once back in Canada, I joined the 2nd CR Patrol Group (CRPG) in 2015 as a Deputy-Commander and then got promoted to Commander in 2017. Since 2022, I have taken on the role of Director of the CR Corps. My main role is to strengthen the CR Corps and find solutions to current challenges by facilitating inter-CRPG communication. I also act as the Director of the CR within the Army Staff by advising the CA Commander (CCA) on CR and Junior Canadian Rangers (JCR)-related issues and how we can better align.

Q: How does it feel to serve within an element of the Canadian Armed Forces that has been providing critical support for more than 75 years?

A: It is a privilege. Firstly, leading an element that is as diverse as Canada is a truly rewarding experience. Secondly, it is a joy to know that the CR have been a positive changemaker for 75 years, whether it’s by deploying effectively with little to no notice or inspiring youth with their JCR program.

Q: How do you think the last 75 years has prepared the CR for the environment they operate in today?

A: Many Rangers grew up in the same communities they serve, so there is a symbiotic relationship. Members of the CR are masters of adaptability, a skill they often learn during their youth, which prepares them for the ever-changing environment that they operate in today.

Q: What are some of the most memorable CR moments of the last 75 years?

A: Beyond the first few decades, which put the bravery and resilience of the CR to the test, I think that the 1990’s were significant, as the CR saw the creation of all 5 CRPGs, which lead to a significant expansion of their capabilities, and the formation of the JCR Program, which is turning 25 this year. Other key points in our history would be the transfer of CR command to the CCA in 2007 and our work under OP Laser, part of the response to COVID-19, from 2020 to 2022. This was the largest-ever CR mobilisation. While not being a specific event, I think that the relationship that the CR and their communities have built is also a key point from the last 75 years.

Q: Why do you think it was important to specifically highlight their 75th anniversary?

A: I believe that the celebrations represent an appropriate means to thank the CR and highlight the contributions that they have made in many small, often fragile, communities, during the last 75 years. The renaissance of the esprit de corps among the CR is also worth highlighting.

Q: And how exactly was the anniversary highlighted?

A: There have been many layers to the celebrations. Regionally, each CRPG hosted an event to bring their patrols together, such as Ex RANGER TRACKER, a canoe expedition led by 3 CRPG, or the participation of 2 CRPG in the Great Expedition of Quebec’s First Nations communities. Nationally, all the CR were invited to the CR-75 Rendez-Vous, held in May 2022 in Victoria, B.C., to kick off the 75th anniversary. The event was presided over by the Governor General, Her Excellency the Right Honourable Mary Simon and many Canadian Armed Forces (CAF) and government officials were present.

Q: Wow, this has been quite the year! And now that we are nearing the end of the anniversary, what would be your best memory from the last year?

A: Without a doubt, I would say the kick-off event in Victoria. It was one for the books; the first ever CR gathering of that size, and I was proud to see them be honoured by so many dignitaries of the CAF and the Canadian Government.

Q: Now, let’s look forward, what is your vision for the future of the CR?

A: For the last 75 years, many have relied on the CR to assume many risks due their adaptability. I think it is time that we find a better balance and maximize collaboration. The vision of the CCA clearly illustrates and aligns with the aspirations of the CR. With my team, we aim to define an operational capability that will have a specific mandate for which members will be trained, equipped, structured, staffed, and provided with adequate resources for their reality. One important step towards this vision is the CR Enhancement Strategy. By completing an extensive review of the CR, the CA aims to create a revised Force Employment concept will result in a new CR Master Implementation Directive in 2024, enhancing and expanding the CR to improve their functional capabilities, ensure better alignment within the CAF, allies and relevant other Government Departments and agencies, as well as addressing the fundamental problematics of this unique sub-component.

Q: And if we look even further, what do you envision for the next 75 years?

A: First, I want to find ways to rightfully celebrate the successful JCR program, which turns 25 this year. Beyond that, I want the CR’s history of courage and resilience to continue being written for the next 75 years. I want to see that they remain an essential element of CAF operational capability while receiving resources equivalent to the support they give to Canada and its communities.

Q: Is there anything else you would like to add?

A: I want to thank the CR, as well as all the other military members and civilians that work with them, for their contributions to the security of Canadians. And I want to highlight the creativity and perseverance they have shown over the last 75 years.

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