Distinguished Member Of The Force – Stuart Milton Hodgson


Stuart Hodgson - Distinguished Member of the RCMP




Recently, Veteran Ralph Mahar brought to our attention an obituary of Stuart Milton Hodgson which contained a reference that Stuart was a “Distinguished Member of the RCMP.”  To many Veterans, this reference was an unusual tribute.




In an effort to clarify this tribute, the opinions of many Veterans were sought and some research resulted.

The results of our enquires and research revealed the following details about this appointment granted to Stuart Milton Hodgson:

Traditionally, the Commissioner of the RCMP was permitted to offer membership to persons who were particular friends of the Force or who had otherwise offered valuable service to the Force.  Categories of membership offered were: “Distinguished Member” (the highest or most senior type of membership which was a lifetime membership) and “Honorary Member” (appointment was for only one year).

Veteran Don Klancher provided an extract from the RCMP Regulations and Orders, amendment dated August 9, 1968:

“R. O. 3108 (1) From time to time it is desirable to bestow recognition on certain individuals outside the Force in acknowledgement of the fact that they have, during their long association with the Force, demonstrated very warm friendship and high regard for the organization and its members.  In order to show this recognition in a tangible form the Commissioner may, by himself or on the recommendation of an officers’ or non-commissioned officers’ mess, grant such a person Distinguished
Membership in all officers’ or non-commissioned officers’ messes.

(4) A laminated card, signed by the Commissioner, will be issued with the badge and name of the Force, and the name of the distinguishedmember, and the privileges to which he is entitled shown thereon. This card may be presented either by the Commissioner or the president of the mess on some appropriate occasion.

(5) Distinguished Membership shall entitle the holder thereof to all the privileges of regular membership, except that of voting, and shallauthorize the extending of all courtesy and hospitality to the individual by any member of the Force.”

According to the April 1973 edition of the RCMP Quarterly (page 10) article “N.W.T. Ball Salutes The RCMP” – “The evening started with a real bang as the Commissioner lit the fuse to fire off a miniature cannon, following which he presented Commissioner Hodgson with a commemorative Winchester rifle, and named him an honorary life member of all RCMP messes.

Also unveiled was the special commemorative china available only to members of the RCMP and the first plate was presented to Mrs. Hodgson.  As a lasting memento of the occasion, Commissioner Hodgson presented a shamrock specially designed for the Commissioner (Higgitt), complete with gold braid and the Commissioner’s rank.”

According to Veteran Don Wilson “I don’t believe there ever were more that twelve or so, Distinguished Members at any given time and it may be that there are none at present. The names of Distinguished Members that come to mind are: The Honourable Lieutenant Governor General George Pearkes (a member of the Royal Northwest Mounted Police in his early years and recipient of the Victoria Cross); The Honourable Davie Fulton, Minister of Justice and the Minister responsible for the RCMP in the Diefenbaker government of the late 50’s, and Stuart Hodgson, whose relationship with the RCMP was of long duration and of great significance.

Stuart Hodgson was a ‘Distinguished Member of the RCMP Officers Mess’ (a lifetime appointment) and a great supporter of the Force for many years.”

Photograph of RCMP Commissioner William Higgitt presenting a RCMP 1873-1973 Centennial Winchester rifle to NWT Commissioner Stuart Hodgson (Source of photo - RCMP Quarterly Magazine edition

Photograph of RCMP Commissioner William Higgitt presenting a RCMP 1873-1973 Centennial Winchester rifle to NWT Commissioner Stuart Hodgson (Source of photo – RCMP Quarterly Magazine April 1973 edition).

Many Veterans have provide us with their comments on their impressions and experiences with Stuart Hodgson:

Veteran Don Klancher outlined “at the NWT Centennial Ball, held in Yellowknife in January 1973, Commissioner Higgitt “… presented Hodgson with a commemorative Winchester rifle, and named him an honorary life member of all RCMP messes.”

Veteran Ric Hall stated “In 1973 Commissioner Hodgson hosted a dinner for the centennial of the Force and he invited Arnold Friberg to the dinner. Vic Irving and Arnold Friberg went on to become good friends. In fact, when Arnold re-married, after his first wife died, Vic Irving served as his best man. The marriage took place in the Officers Mess, “E” Division.”

Veteran Bob Bacchus outlined “Stuart presented ME with my 20 year Long service medal in Yellowknife.

I think the term used “Distinguished Member of the RCMP” probably meant he was made an Honourary Member of the Vets Association or it may just mean he was very closely associated with the Force – which he definitely was.”

Veteran Garth Hampson commented “Very sad news about Stu. He was a true friend of the RCMP Band and we had the privilege of being part of his many programs in the north and latterly here in Ottawa. He was an amazing person that finally brought the necessary spotlight to the Canadian Arctic. Fortunately he was there at a very important time for the Force as a kick off to the RCMP Centennial year. We in the Band were privy to one of the most glorious events of that special year – being at Fort Mitchener in Yellowknife – all created and executed by this amazing man.

Thought overnight about the tremendous friends the Force had with Stuart Hodgson and his wife Pearl. I have sent a condolence to his site but I just want to say how important it would be for regular and retired members to be a part in his funeral (if the family so wishes). We never had a better friend than Stu,particularly for those of us who had northern service. He made every job he took on a memorable experience for all concerned. Many of us would love to be there to pay our respects.”

Veteran Ernie MacAulay stated “Stu was an Honourary Member of all RCMP Officers’ Messes. He was a personal acquaintance of Her Majesty and a close advisor to former Prime Minister JeanChrétien.

Stu’s association with the RCMP began when he was a national leader of the International Woodworkers’ Union and Commissioner Nicholson resigned when the Government of Canada declined to provide the resources necessary to deal with a violent strike in Newfoundland. Although they had different roles in the dispute, Stu really admired ‘Nick’ (as he called him) and they were friends until Commissioner Nicholson died. He had a close relationship with the Force during his tenure in the NWT and continued his association with us when he moved to Richmond. He and his late wife, Pearl, designed the ‘polar bear’ licence plate for the 1970 centennial of the NWT and it has become the most unique licence plate design in the world.

Stu was the only Canadian who could call Her Majesty and she would always be glad to talk to him. He arranged for Arnold Friberg, RSA to paint Prince Charles with Centenial and Her Majesty mounted on Centennial.

Veteran Don Wilson outlined “I believe Stuart’s direct access to the Royal Household was to His Royal Highness, the Prince Charles. Stuart Hodgson was a man of whom it could be said: He was larger than life!

Other tributes to Stuart Hodgson are listed below:


It is with heavy hearts that we announce the passing of Stuart Milton Hodgson. Stuart was born in Vancouver, the second son of Allan and Mary Hodgson. Stu joined the RCN at HMCS Discovery and served as a gunner with the HMCS Monnow on the Murmansk run. He returned to work in the plywood mills and became involved in the IWA as Secretary Treasurer of Local 1-217.

He served in many positions with the Vancouver Labour Council and the BC Federation of Labour. In 1964, he was appointed as a member of the Council of the Northwest Territories and then as Deputy Commissioner of the NWT.

He was appointed as Commissioner by Prime Minister Pearson in 1967, then moved the government north to establish Yellowknife as the new Capital of the NWT.

Known by the Inuit as Umingmak (Musk-Ox) for his strength, endurance and protective presence, he visited every community annually. In 1975 he relinquished his authority to a fully elected Council. Before leaving the North in 1979 he invited Prince Charles to open the Prince of Wales Northern Heritage Centre.

Stu was then appointed Chair of the International Joint Commission where he settled 21 longstanding disputes between Canada and the US.

He took the helm of the BC Ferry Corporation as Chair in 1981 and moved to Chair BC Transit in 1983.

Stuart then became a Citizenship Judge until he retired in 2005.

He was an Officer in the Order of Canada, a Knight of the Order of St. John, a Distinguished Member of the RCMP, an Honorary Colonel of the 1st Canadian Ranger Patrol Group and a Doctor of Law (U of Calgary).

Stuart was a kind spirited and generous man who loved his family, friends and life.

He is survived by his son Eugene (Karen) and grandsons Stuart and Evan, daughter Lynne and grandchildren Sarah, Travis, Kyle and Brittany. Special thanks to the “darling” staff at Crofton Manor and his care-givers Socorro and Cecilia.

A memorial service is scheduled for January 14, 2016 at 2:00 p.m. in Vancouver, B.C. at HMCS Discovery in Stanley Park. (Obituary appeared in the Vancouver Sun).

If you had the opportunity to meet Stuart Hodgson, you may wish to attend the memorial service.