The Roots of an Institution
In May 1873, the Parliament of Canada established a central police force, and sent 150 recruits west to Manitoba. The new police force gradually acquired the name “North-West Mounted Police” (NWMP).
In July 1874, the Mounted Police, now numbering 275 members, marched west where 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.
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.
In 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.
Building a Legacy
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.
On February 1, 1920, the Act to amend the Royal North West Mounted Police Act came into force, changing the name of the Royal North West Mounted Police (RNWMP) to the Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP). In addition, the Act added the roles and responsibilities of the Dominion Police to the RCMP.
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 70s 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.
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.