Veteran Nunavik Rangers honoured for long service
“It’s good to be able to help other people”
Paulusi Novalinga prides himself on the number of lives he’s helped save over the years.
He can’t say how many, but 42 years as an Canadian Ranger has put him at the forefront of dozens — maybe hundreds — of search and rescue operations around his hometown of Puvirnituq, on Nunavik’s Hudson coast.
The 60-year-year corporal recalls one memorable story: it was during the 1980s and two local teenagers were travelling to a neighbouring community by snowmobile to visit friends. But they didn’t arrive on schedule.
The weather had deteriorated, so Canadian Rangers from Puvirnituq set out to find the two young men. This proved a difficult task; Novalinga said there were so many caribou tracks that any trace of the men’s snowmobile had been trampled over.
“We found them eventually, behind rocks and buried under snow, but they were still alive,” Novalinga said.
It was that rescue, and the many more that followed, which continue to remind Novalinga about why he’s stayed on with the Canadian Rangers, a group that’s considered the “eyes and ears” of the Canadian Armed Forces in northern and isolated communities.
There are roughly 5,000 Canadian Rangers in 200 communities across the country.
Novalinga and seven of his Ranger colleagues were honoured Feb. 29 for their 42 years of service with the organization.
Top brass from the Armed Forces’ Joint Task Force visited Puvirnituq last week to honour long-standing members from Puvirnituq and Akulivik, presenting them with the third clasp. In addition to Novalinga, the honourees included:
• Ranger Alasuak Alayco (Akulivik);
• Ranger Adamie Anautak (Akulivik);
• Ranger William Nappatuk (Akulivik);
• Ranger Peter Ittukallak (Puvirnituq) ;
• Ranger Juanasi Tulugak (Puvirnituq); and,
• Ranger Georges Nunga (Puvirnituq).
“It is a great honour for the Canadian Army to highlight your commitment to protecting Canadians and providing security in Northern Canada,” said Lieutenant-General Marquis Hainse, a commander with the Canadian Army, in a Feb. 29 release.
Today, Puvirnituq hosts a local contingent of 27 Rangers, seven of whom are women.
The motivation to serve his community and region began early for Novalinga, who was only 17 years old when he joined the Rangers.
At the time, Novalinga was a year shy of being eligible to join the Rangers. But he earned himself a reputation as a capable interpreter to his unilingual Inuktitut-speaking father, who was a sergeant with the Puvirnituq patrol in the early 1950s.
Along with his service in search and rescues, training and providing other support to the Canadian Army, Novalinga also serves as president of Nunavik’s Anguvigak Hunters and Trappers Association.
At home, the tradition has reached a third and even fourth generation: all three of Novalinga’s sons are Rangers, while his 17-year-old granddaughter is a Junior Ranger. (He has six children and 16 grandchildren. )
“It’s a family tradition,” he laughed.
“It’s good to be a Ranger, to be able to help other people,” Novalinga said. “Rangers are good citizens.”
When asked how long be plans to stay on as a Ranger, Novalinga said “as long as I can.”
“The more I think about it, I think I’m good where I am right now, to pass on my knowledge,” he said. “I like the action.”