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The History of the Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP)

Yukon Peace Officer Honour Roll Crime & Policing in the North

Dateline: March 9, 2013.

North-West Mounted Police (NWMP)

    On May 23, 1873, the Parliament of Canada established "a Mounted Police Force for the North-West Territories", and in October that year, sent 150 recruits west to Manitoba. Prime Minister John A. Macdonald initially called the new force the North-West Mounted Rifles, and it was often called the Manitoba Mounted Police Force in early newspaper reports, but it gradually acquired the name "North-West Mounted Police" (NWMP).

The recent sensational telegrams from Manitoba as to Indian disturbances have been found to be without foundation. They were, however, at the time, considered of sufficient importance to induce Lieutenant-Governor Morris, who was at his home in Ontario on leave of absence, to hurry back to the seat of government. Among the measures of the present Session of Parliament is one for the establishment of a mounted police force for the North-West Territories, the maximum strength of which is fixed at 300 men. The manufacture, sale in, or importation of liquors into the North-West territories having been stringently prohibited by Act of Parliament, the services of this force will be of great avail in protecting the Indians from American traders, who barter their liquors for valuable furs, cheating and demoralizing the Indian at one and the same time. (The Times, London, England - June 6, 1873)

    On July 8, 1874, the Mounted Police, now numbering 275 members, marched west, headed for southern Alberta, where American whisky traders were operating among the Aboriginal people. The officers established a permanent post at Fort Macleod, Alberta, where approximately half of the Force was posted. The remaining members were either sent to Fort Edmonton or to Fort Pelly, Saskatchewan, which had been designated as headquarters.

    The following summer, the Mounted Police established Fort Calgary, on the Bow River in Alberta, and Fort Walsh, in Saskatchewan's Cypress Hills.

    In 1876, residents of Fort Macleod, Alberta, saw the first public performance of what would eventually evolve into the RCMP Musical Ride.

    By 1885, the Force had grown to 1,000 men, but in 1896 its future was threatened by the newly elected Prime Minister, Sir Wilfrid Laurier, who wanted to reduce and eventually disband the NWMP. However, support for the Force in the West prevailed, and it gained new prominence policing the Klondike Gold Rush.

Royal North-West Mounted Police (RNWMP)

    Among the King's Birthday honours bestowed on June 24, 1904, King Edward VII conferred the title of "Royal" upon the North-West Mounted Police.

    From 1905 to 1916, the Force entered into contracts to police the provinces of Alberta and Saskatchewan. These contracts ended due to the provinces' desire to create their own police forces.

Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP)

    In 1919, Parliament voted to merge the Force with the Dominion Police, a federal police force with jurisdiction in eastern Canada. When the legislation took effect on February 1, 1920, the Force's name became the Royal Canadian Mounted Police, and headquarters was moved to Ottawa from Regina.

    The RCMP returned to provincial policing with a new contract with Saskatchewan in 1928.

    From 1932 to 1938, the RCMP took over provincial policing in Alberta, Manitoba, New Brunswick, Nova Scotia and Prince Edward Island, nearly doubling in size to 2,350 members.

    The years following World War II saw a continued expansion of the RCMP's role as a provincial force. In 1950, it assumed responsibility for provincial policing in Newfoundland and absorbed the British Columbia provincial police.

    Women were first accepted as uniformed members in 1974. The 1970s also brought an expansion of responsibilities in areas such as airport policing, VIP security and drug enforcement.

    In 1989, the RCMP participated in its first United Nations mission, sending 100 police officers to Namibia to monitor national elections.

    Today, the RCMP's scope of operations includes organized crime, terrorism, illicit drugs, economic crimes and offences that threaten the integrity of Canada's national borders. The RCMP also protects VIPs, has jurisdiction in eight provinces and three territories and, through its National Police Services, offers resources to other Canadian law enforcement agencies.

More RCMP History

North-West Mounted Police - The Canadian Encyclopedia