Happy Anniversary!!

One hundred and forty-nine years ago today!  Sir John A. MacDonald introduces a bill to create the NWMP…… May 23, 1873 the bill receives Royal Assent.  Sir John A., with a stroke of his quill, changed the North West Mounted Rifles to the North West Mounted Police due to concerns from the Americans that Canada was raising a military force. 

There are rumours that Sir John may have been imbibing in his favourite aperitif …. gin, at the time of the name change!

 Under the provisions of this Act the new force would consist of a Commissioner, as many Superintendents as were deemed desirable, a paymaster, veterinary surgeon, and sergeants, with constables and sub-constables, to a number not exceeding three hundred.  All were to be mounted and efficiently equipped, and, above all, there was to be no ostentatious display.  “As little gold lace and fuss and feathers as possible,” were Sir John’s words.

 He wanted a plain, working, mobile force, suited to the conditions of the country – a force, in short, of well-trained, hard-bitten men, all good riders and good marksmen.  In effect, the North-West Mounted Police was to be purely a civil force, like the Royal Irish Constabulary, drilled in simple movements taken from the British cavalry regulations, and its interior economy was to be conducted much upon the system of a regular cavalry regiment.

 It was not to be subject to the Queen’s regulations and articles of war, but discipline was to be enforced by virtue of the powers conferred upon certain officers by a very concise and comprehensive section contained in the statute, which provides a maximum punishment of six months’ imprisonment with hard labour and the deprivation of one month’s pay.

One of the sections of the Act ran thus: “No person shall be appointed to the Police Force unless he be of sound constitution, able to ride, active and able-bodied, of good character, and between the ages of eighteen and forty years; nor unless he be able to read and write either the English or French language.”

The rest as they say ….is history!

Poor Sir John has been receiving bad press lately, but for the NWMP through to the RCMP he has a special place in the Force’s history.


Photograph of retired RCMP Superintendent Ric Hall (Source of the photo – Ric Hall’s Photo Collection).