A Force to be Reckoned With
The RCMP Celebrates 125 Years
Article published in Canada's Stamp Details (Vol. 7 No 4; July/August,
The Canadian Mountie is probably the symbol of Canada most recognized by individuals around the world, more so even than the maple leaf. The Mounties' scarlet tunic and flat-brimmed Stetson have become national icons, and the officers behind the uniforms have become celebrated defenders of our vast country.
To celebrate the 125th anniversary of this most revered Canadian institution, Canada Post is issuing a set of two domestic-rate commemorative stamps.
Law and Order
The North-West Mounted Police (NWMP) was created in 1873 in Ottawa to establish law and order on Canada's western plains. This para-military body's duties included stopping liquor traffic among the Natives, collecting customs dues and performing all traditional duties of a police force.
The NWMP began with only 150 recruits, men from all walks of life. Some came from military circles, others were clerks, tradesmen, farmers, sailors, lumberjacks, bakers, butchers and university students.
The Journey Westward
NWMP posts sprung up throughout the west. Officers were successful at fostering friendly relations with the Natives and eliminating the lawlessness that had been rampant. They became allies of the Natives, assisting them with preparation for treaty negotiations and mediating conflicts with new settlers.
Their battle against liquor trafficking climaxed in 1874 with the famed March West. Six NWMP troops equipped with artillery, oxen, cattle, horses and agricultural equipment set out for Fort Whoop-Up, a notorious stronghold of the whiskey traders. They successfully located the fort, but only to discover that the traders had fled.
Beyond the Call
By the late 1800s, the Mounties had taken on many duties of civil authority beyond policing; they acted as mail carriers, customs collectors, Indian agents and census takers. By 1914, over a million people had moved to the Prairies, and the NWMP became land agents, immigration and welfare officials, and agricultural advisors.
When gold fever struck the Yukon in the 1890s, the Mountie presence
ensured that the Klondike Gold Rush remained orderly. Officers took on the added roles of magistrates, coroners, and mining recorders. Their involvement ensured strict enforcement of the regulations and prevented unprepared prospectors from dying of starvation or exposure to the elements.
A New Mounted Police Force
In 1920, the NWMP merged with the Dominion Police, a federal force formed in 1868 to guard government buildings and enforce federal statutes. Dubbed
the Royal Canadian Mounted Police, it was given responsibility for enforcing
federal laws across Canada, and its headquarters moved to Ottawa. Shortly
afterward, the force became involved in high-level security and intelligence
The Face of the RCMP Today
Now 125 years old and 15,000 members strong, the RCMP provides provincial
policing services in all but two provinces (Quebec and Ontario). It continues
to play a vital role enforcing Canadian law. Intelligence operations have
moved to the Canadian Security Intelligence Service (CSIS), but the RCMP
maintains responsibility for enforcing federal statutes and dealing with
infractions of the Customs and Excise Acts. The force is involved with
combating organized crime, narcotics trafficking, and commercial fraud.
Though they have abandoned their red coats and Stetsons for more modern
dress, the historic uniforms are still donned by Mounties for ceremonial
purposes and for duty on Parliament Hill. Training in horsemanship is
another tradition that has been dropped from recruit training, but red-coated
male and female officers can be seen mounted on magnificent black horses
in the famed Musical Ride.
One for the Books
Designed by Robert Peters of Circle Design of Winnipeg, the Canada Post
RCMP stamp set contrasts the Mounted Police Force of yesteryear with the
face of the RCMP today. The first stamp presents an historic image of
Mounties clad in red coat and Stetson, while the second shows a modern-day
image of an RCMP employee at work at a computer terminal. Together, these
images give a sense of the longstanding position the RCMP has held in
These 1998 stamps are the latest honouring the RCMP. Previously issued were the 1935 Constable on Horseback (seen above), the 1973 RCMP Centennial set of 3 stamps, and the 1982 Stamp on a Stamp. The stamps will be released July 3, 1998.
|2 x 45¢
|A: Pane of 20 stamps
|B: Souvenir sheet (2 stamps)
|C: Overprint souvenir sheet (2 stamps)
|D: Uncut Press Sheet
| A: 98121
|Date of Issue
|3 July 1998
|Last Day of Sale
|2 July 1999
|Robert Peters, Catherine Hildebrand,
'Segun Olude, Susan McWatt
|John McQuarrie, Brian Gould,
RCMP/First Light, Glenbow Museum
D: 500,000 (25,000 sheets)
|Stamp: 48 mm x 27.5 mm (horizontal)
Souvenir sheet: 160 mm x 102 mm
Uncut Press sheet: 660 mm x 600 mm
|Tullis Russell Coatings (Coated)
|Lithography (six colours)
with foil stamping and embossing
|General tagged, four sides
|Official First Day Cover
Corner Block 98122
Philately & Postal Service
Crime & Policing in the North