A History of the Ontario Ranger Program

What is the Ontario Ranger Program?

The Ontario Ranger Program, formerly the Junior Ranger Program, was a youth program run by the Ministry of Natural Resources. To apply to the OR program, you had to be in your 17th year (e.g. 2012 rangers were born in 1995), and be a resident of Ontario. The selection process was random, a postal-code based lottery system. Typically if you were from Southern Ontario, you were placed at a northern camp; Northern Ontarians placed at a southern camp. The program consisted of work, education and recreation components. Each Ranger experienced similar work such as clearing trails, planting trees, maintaining canoe routes, fish and wildlife projects, collaborating with aboriginal groups, working in the kitchen, and camp maintenance. In most recent years, camps were capped at 22 Rangers, but earlier on in its history, 35 or 40 youth could be at one camp.

Until its closure (announced on September 27, 2012), the Ontario Ranger Program consisted of 13 camps, and included 2 bilingual camps and 7 camps with co-op credit options. These camps were:
Cedarbough (F) - Sioux Lookout
Dividing Lake (F) - Gogama
Esker Lakes (F) - Kirkland Lake
Killarney (F) - Killarney
Kiosk (M) – Mattawa
Machesney Lake (M) – Bancroft
McCreight's Dam (F) - Thessalon
Mink Lake (M) – Atikokan
Moose Lake (F) - Minden
Round Lake (M) - Killaloe
Sleeping Giant (F) - Pass Lake
Sandbar (M) – Ignace
Wade Lake (M) – Cochrane

Mission Statement (by the MNR)

The Ontario Ranger Program strives to develop knowledge and skills in ecological sustainability and integrated natural resources management through educational, practical and meaningful work experiences for participants. Through program opportunities, the Ontario Ranger Program promotes an enhanced understanding and awareness of Ontario’s natural resources management and supports the development of participant personal life and leadership skills.

Vision Statement (by the MNR)

The Ontario Ranger Program is a significant contributor in achieving results for goals and objectives of the Ministry of Natural Resources. Through partnerships and projects, the Ontario Ranger Program succeeds in meeting the Ministry of Natural Resource’s priorities to support the economy, the environment and a stronger relationship with First Nations (MNR, Rbp, 2010-11). The Ontario Ranger program also provides opportunities to engage Ontario residents in promoting stewardship and fostering an improved understanding of Ontario’s biodiversity conservation goals to support Protecting What Sustains Us: Ontario Biodiversity Strategy (MNR, 2005).

The History of the Ontario Ranger Program (referenced from the 2012 Ontario Ranger Manual, MNR)

The Ontario Ranger Program was a youth program run by the Ontario Ministry of Natural Resources (MNR). Dating back to 1944, it was called the “Junior Forest Ranger Program”, and in that first year employed 21 youth. Since then it grew to offering about 804 summer positions, and as high as 2000 positions in 1973. In its heyday the program included 52 camps! The official name of the Junior Ranger Program changed to Ontario Ranger Program in the early 1990s.

In 68 years, approximately 78,000 youth have participated in the program. Through these years, pay reflects the changes of time- $3.00 a day in 1953 slowly emerged to $10.00 a day in 1975, to $15.00 a day in 1986. 1990 marked the time when pay reflected minimum wage minus a room and board deduction. For example, in 1991 the rate was $26.49 a day. Today’s rate of pay reflects the current minimum wage of Ontario with room and board deductions.

During the first 30 years, the program was open only to boys. But in 1973 girls were accepted into the program. The program is now split between male and female participants at all-female or all-male camps. In 1988, the first designated bilingual camp was at Bonner Lake OR camp in Kapuskasing and in 1989 a female bilingual camp was operated at White Lake in the Wawa District.

1989 marked the most drastic cuts to the program (until now). Due to “government constraints and decreasing enrolment in the program”, 500 positions were cut, leaving 900 OR positions for the summer. Decreased enrolment was thought to be contributed to lack of program awareness and changing demographics. Revitalization efforts included a new communication strategy, a high school co-op credit program, and corporate sponsorship. In 1990 the MNR considered external funding options, such as with the Environmental Youth Corps (EYC). Soon after, Jobs Ontario Youth (now Jobs Ontario Summer Employment) evolved as a special initiative, contributing $1.0M to the OR program.

In 2008 the MNR and Ministry of Education collaborated to offer a cooperative education program at specified camps. “Throughout 2009 and 2010, the Ontario Ranger Program grew its’ co-op program to six camps, acquired 3.2 million dollars of federal monies for camp rebuild projects and delivered approximately 94 person years’ worth of natural resources management work over two years.” In this past year of the Ontario Ranger Program (2012), 13 camps offered 278 positions, 7 camps having co-op opportunities and 2 camps with a bilingual component.