The Royal Canadian Mounted Police

The Royal Canadian Mounted Police is nearly as old as Canada. The history of this police force is intriguing.

Canada's first Prime Minister, Sir John A. MacDonald, conceived the Royal Canadian Mounted Police, having been inspired by the Royal Irish Constabulary and the mounted rifle units of the United States. Act of Parliament (36 Vic, ch 35) May 23, 1873; Order in Council 1134, August 30, 1873, gave the Mounties, a slang term used for this Force, legal authority.

At the time the Order of Council was passed, this law enforcement organization was called the North-West Mounted Police (NWMP.) The organization of the Force began on September 5, 1873 with the appointment of officers and a recruiting campaign, which concluded in 1874. On July 8, 1874 officers and men numbering 275 departed Dufferin, Manitoba for the "March West." They took along extra horses and equipment. They arrived in what we know as southern Alberta in October.

The role of the North-West Mounted Police from 1874 to 1905 was general law enforcement. Detachments were established throughout the prairies. A patrol system was initiated so these men were able to effectively police the entire region.

The North-West Mounted Police established a friendly relationship with the Natives in the region and kept the whiskey trade under control while enforcing prohibition. They also supervised treaties between the federal government and the Peoples of the First Nations.

Along with these responsibilities, they assisted the settling of the area by fighting prairie fires, disease and destitution and ensuring the welfare of the settlers.

In 1895, Mounted Police jurisdiction was extended to the Yukon and was expanded to the Arctic Coast in 1903. King Edward VII conferred the prefix "Royal" on the North-West Mounted Police in 1904.

In 1905, the Royal Northwest Mounted Police contracted to police the new provinces of Saskatchewan and Alberta. In 1912, their policing duties were extended to include Manitoba.

During the First World War, the Royal Northwest Mounted Police patrolled borders, kept enemy aliens under surveillance and enforced national security regulations.

In 1917, when policing contracts in Canada were terminated, the Royal Northwest Mounted Police were only responsible for federal law enforcement in Alberta, Saskatchewan and the territories. In 1918, their responsibilities were extended to the four western provinces.

Federal policing was reorganized again in 1920 and the Royal Northwest Mounted Police absorbed the Dominion Police. At this time, the name of the organization was changed to the Royal Canadian Mounted Police. (RCMP) Their responsibilities for federal law enforcement were extended to include the entire nation of Canada.

In 1928, the RCMP returned to provincial policing under contract for Saskatchewan. Throughout the 1920's, detachments were set up in the eastern and high Arctic regions to protect Canadian sovereignty. In 1932, provincial-policing duties resumed in Nova Scotia, Prince Edward Island, New Brunswick and Manitoba.

The year 1932 brought more changes to the RCMP. The vessels and men of the Preventative Service and National Revenue were absorbed into the Force. This created the RCMP Marine Section.

In the 1930's, development of Canada's "national police services" gave many other duties to the RCMP. These included a forensic laboratory, a crime index, a photo section, firearm registration and a fingerprinting unit. Transportation and communication were improved. Cars, trucks, motorcycles, aircrafts, radios and ships all became valuable tools of the RCMP.

In 1940 to 1942, the RCMP supply vessel, St. Roch, made her historic voyage through the Northwest Passage.

During WWII, the RCMP was responsible for national security. This security remained in place from 1939 to 1945.

More changes in 1950 extended the provincial policing contracts to include Newfoundland and British Columbia. According to statistics, the only provinces in Canada today that aren't provincially policed by the RCMP, are Ontario and Quebec. Though the RCMP usually let the Ontario Provincial Police handle all matters, they do have jurisdiction in all of Canada. 1950 brought another expansion to the RCMP. Security operations designated them a Special Branch, Directorate of Security and Intelligence followed in 1962, and Security Service in 1970. In 1984, a separate agency was created - the Canadian Security Intelligence Service. (CSIS)

In 1972, the Canadian Police Information Centre (CPIC) was established. With this, there was an expansion of duties that included VIP security, airport policing, economic crime and drug enforcement.

In September 1974, this all-male force took a big step forward. They began to recruit women as uniformed regular members. Today, women work in all divisions and departments of the RCMP.

During the 1990's, another expansion of police duties took place. RCMP were sent on special assignment to East Timor, Haiti, Kosovo, Namibia, Bosnia, Croatia, Guatemala and Western Sahara.

The military record of the RCMP covers many years. They covered the Northwest Rebellion in 1885, which included Dutch Lake, Fort Pitt, Cut Knife Hill and the pursuit of Big Bear.

From 1889 to 1902, the RCMP took part in the South African War. Members represented the Force in the 2nd Canadian Mounted Rifles and Lord Strathcona's Horse. In all, over 250 men served in the Canadian contingents and the South African Constabulary.

During WWI (1914 to 1918) cavalry squadrons provided services overseas. "A" Squadron covered Belgium, France and England while "B" Squadron covered Siberia.

WWII (1939 to 1945) saw RCMP Air and Marine Section personnel transferred to Royal Canadian Air Force and the Royal Canadian Navy in 1939. The No. 1 Provost Company was created at this time for military duties overseas.

Canada is proud of her elite police force The Royal Canadian Mounted Police, and so she should be. Since 1874, this organization has enforced the laws of the land and protected Canada's best interests in time of world upheaval and war.

Today, the RCMP is still a symbol of the Canadian nation. The Royal Canadian Mounted Police's Musical Ride is a site to behold. A few years ago, the first woman was allowed to ride in this prestigious tradition.

This column is not only a historical account of the RCMP, but a tribute to all who have served within its ranks from the early days of 1974, to the present. Without them, Canada would be a much different country in which to live.

The unofficial motto of the RCMP is: "A Mountie Always Gets His Man." This originates from the days when the Northwest Mounted Police pursued criminals relentlessly, sometimes traveling for weeks or months through the harsh weather of Canada's Arctic to bring them back to justice. Today, men and women of the RCMP do their best to track down criminals. They even post photos and information of "Most Wanted by the RCMP" on their website.

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