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Rangers changes coming soon

While the deployment of new rifles to replace the aging arsenal of Lee Enfields has been delayed until next year, the Canadian Rangers will be soon getting some much-needed boosts on the administrative side of things.

Ranger Sergeant Frank Green prepares to fire the .303 Lee Enfield rifle during a practice session. photo courtesy of Capt. Stephen Watton

Canada’s military ombudsman, Gary Walbourne, has been leading a review on the Rangers program since October 2016. It is now complete and on the desk of Defence Minister Harjit Sajjan. Walbourne expects it to be made public by the beginning of November.

While this review has been happening, the Department of National Defence has been making its own improvements on the structure of the program. While this has forced the ombudsman’s team to be quick on their feet in their review -- “kind of like building a plane while flying it,” says Walbourne – the ombudsman says he’s encouraged that the department has been seeing the same issues.

On Sept. 20, the ombudsman released an update on his office’s website stating the department has revised a policy outlining the role, mission and tasks of the Rangers. Included in this is guidance on a variety of administrative issues, which are at the core of how the group functions.

“Administration is one of the large pieces that they’re going to have to tackle,” says Walbourne. “It’s no great secret — I’ve been telling people in my updates — a lot of what we’re running in against is administrative gaps in the process or a policy, not clear definition or wording in the policy to allow certain groups in or out.”

These gaps result in all sorts of issues on the ground. In March, Walbourne released findings that there were considerable delays in reimbursement or compensation for damaged equipment. It took eight to sometimes 17 weeks to process the claims.

“There will be changes coming to the administration and especially for the recapture of equipment costs,” says Walbourne, saying many delays stem from the way paperwork is processed or how often approvals authorities can be on the ground in the many remote Northern locations in which Rangers live and work.

Another issue from the review is work-life balance for the Rangers Instructors, who travel to communities and run exercises, are responsible for administration, relay all changes in administrative policy and procedure to the Rangers and institute training programs. Walbourne says there simply aren’t enough instructors.

The roll-out of replacement rifles for the Canadian Rangers’ aging arsenal of Lee Enfield rifles with more modern weaponry, Cold 6820 rifles, has been pushed back to early 2018 from this fall.

The new rifles will then be phased into use nation-wide over two years, according to Jessica Lamirande, senior communications advisor at the Department of National Defence, but did not specify when Rangers in the NWT might begin to receive them.