Harper wraps up tour of North with stop in Baffin Island

Prime Minister Stephen Harper (2nd R) rides an all terrain vehicle while observing the Operation...

Prime Minister Stephen Harper (2nd R) rides an all terrain vehicle while observing the Operation Nanook military exercise on Baffin Island, Nunavut August 26, 2014. Harper is on the last day of his annual tour of Northern Canada. (REUTERS/Chris Wattie)

Giuseppe Valiante, National Bureau

, Last Updated: 6:48 PM ET

BAFFIN ISLAND, Nunavut — Jamie Panipak, an Arctic Ranger, sat overlooking the frigid water off Baffin Island on Tuesday, keeping watch for two polar bears spotted earlier in the nearby mountains.

His Second World War-era .303 Lee Enfield Ranger bolt-action rifle rested against his chair.

"They told us we would be getting new rifles this year, but then they said we'll get them next year," he said.

Panipak is part of the 1st Canadian Ranger Patrol Group (1CRPG), and one of 1,850 northerners who patrol the Arctic to reinforce Canada's northern sovereignty.

The 60-year-old rifle is representative of the gulf between the government's rhetoric and the realities of Canada's actual ability to defend and lay claim to the land.

While the rifles work well in winter, new parts don't exist and the Rangers "need to cannibalize one to fix another," said 1CRPG Major M.C. Craig Volstad.

"The guns are amazing, but do they need replacing? Yes they do," he said.


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