The Swan Hills RCMP detachment celebrated the 150th anniversary of the Royal Canadian Mounted Police on September 29 with a community BBQ at the Keyano Centre. The event was originally to be held at the detachment in the parking lot but was moved to the Keyano Centre due to a less than favorable weather forecast.
RCMP members cooked up delicious hamburgers and hot dogs for the community and had a display table with some of their police gear. Attendees could look over the equipment and even try it on. There was an excellent turnout for the BBQ, with smiling faces all around.
The roots of the modern-day Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP) can be traced back to Canada’s early days as a nation. In 1867, as Canada was formed through Confederation, the need for law enforcement became evident. Each newly established province took on its own policing duties, but the vast Northwest Territories, lacking provincial status, had to rely on federal oversight.
At the time, the Dominion Police, primarily responsible for guarding Parliament Buildings, was the federal policing body. However, it was too small and structurally ill-suited to maintain law and order in the expansive Northwest Territories. To address this gap, on May 23, 1873, Parliament passed an act that led to the creation of the North-West Mounted Police (NWMP). This milestone is considered the official birthdate of the RCMP, although the Order-in-Council formalizing the NWMP wasn’t signed until August 30, 1873.
The NWMP’s establishment was prompted by a troubling incident in which American whisky traders and wolf-hunters attacked First Nations peoples in Cypress Hills, further emphasizing the need for effective policing. In November 1873, the first 150 recruits gathered at Lower Fort Garry near Winnipeg, Manitoba, to begin their training.
The following summer, now with 300 recruits, the NWMP embarked on the March West, establishing posts (now known as divisions) and smaller outposts (detachments) along the way. They also employed First Nations and Métis guides, scouts, and interpreters, fostering meaningful relationships with local communities.
The Klondike Gold Rush in 1896 extended the NWMP’s reach into the Yukon, where they enforced Canadian law and maintained peace, adapting to new challenges.
The transition to the Royal North-West Mounted Police (RNWMP) came in 1904 when King Edward VII granted them the “Royal” title. This recognition celebrated their 30-year role in policing the Northwest and Yukon Territories.
The RNWMP expanded its operations into the Canadian Arctic, building relationships with Inuit peoples. In 1905, as Saskatchewan and Alberta became provinces, they contracted the RNWMP as their provincial police. However, these contracts were cancelled during World War I, leading to a shift in the RNWMP’s role toward enforcing federal statutes and national security.
In 1918, federal policing duties were divided between the Dominion Police and the RNWMP. The Dominion Police retained its responsibilities in eastern and central Canada, while the RNWMP took on federal policing in northwestern Ontario, Manitoba, Saskatchewan, Alberta, and British Columbia. In 1919, a Criminal Investigation Branch was established at the RNWMP headquarters in Regina, and a security and intelligence office was formed, which later evolved into the Canadian Security and Intelligence Service (CSIS) in 1984.
In 1920, under the leadership of Prime Minister Robert Borden, legislation transformed the RNWMP into the Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP), with an expanded role covering federal policing across Canada. The Dominion Police was integrated into the RCMP, and the headquarters was moved to Ottawa.
Despite concerns over the RCMP’s role in the northern territories, in 1928, Saskatchewan contracted the RCMP as its provincial police, absorbing the Saskatchewan Provincial Police. During the Great Depression, other provinces sought similar contracts. In 1932, the RCMP took over provincial policing in Prince Edward Island, Nova Scotia, New Brunswick, Manitoba, and Alberta.
During the 1930s, the RCMP established Marine and Air Divisions, enhancing their operations on water and in the air. Although these divisions no longer exist, the RCMP continues to provide policing services through these mediums.
In August 1950, the RCMP added the final two provincial policing contracts in British Columbia and Newfoundland and Labrador, leaving only Ontario and Quebec with their own provincial police forces.
Today, the RCMP’s mandate spans national, federal, provincial, and municipal policing, ensuring law enforcement from coast to coast to coast. This journey through history highlights the RCMP’s significant role in shaping Canada’s law enforcement landscape.