RCMP: A Great Tribute

Photograph of NWMP officer's red serge with Austrian knot (Source of photo - Sheldon Boles).




Veteran Windy Gale forwarded us the following extract from the 44th edition of the “Scarlet & Gold” magazine of 1962 which he transcribed.  The noted magazine was published by the Vancouver Division of the RCMP Veterans’ Association.





The “Great Tribute” article was written by Sir Frederick William Haultain, Chief Justice of the Province of Saskatchewan speaking at a Banquet in 1926 at Calgary, Alberta.

Photograph of Sir Frederick William Haultain.

Before speaking of the war, I must speak of the North West Mounted Police – that splendid force whose story is the history of this country, and whose invaluable services for the fifty-two or fifty-three years of its existence, can never be adequately praised. The organization and establishment of the Force was the most important far-reaching step toward the effective and peaceful possession of the Great Lone Land. Consider what the conditions were at that time. There were great and warlike tribes of Indians roving the prairie, but we had none of the costly wars and massacres that occurred on the other side of the line. For many years the U.S.A. was constantly in a state of war with the Indians, a costly and bitter war. Here on our Western Plains the Mounted Police came in and our treaties were made peacefully and observed fully. A policy of fair-dealing and fairness gained the confidence of the Indians from the start.   How much that attitude of scrupulous fairness saved Canada and what trouble it averted, we can only imagine. It is enough to know that from the first appearance of the Force in the North-West up to the present day, the confidence of the Indian tribes was gained, merited and held.

The contrast appears again in the story of railway construction. Robert Louis Stevenson has written of the era of railway construction in the Western States as a time of epic turmoil: of how the railway had pushed through the wilderness, the haunt of savage tribes who had fought at every turn: of how at each step of construction, roaring impromptu cities sprang up, full of lust and gold and death; and how Chinese pirates worked side by side with border ruffians and broken men from Europe, gambling, drinking, quarelling, fighting and murdering like wolves.


Photo of NWMP member guarding the rail head.

Photo of NWMP member guarding the rail head.

We had the same element during the construction of the C.P.R. But what a contrast! There were impromptu cities, with no doubt a good deal of gambling and vice and drinking. But of crimes of violence there were none and of actual wrongdoing there was little. That condition was entirely due to the Mounted Police and the respect for law they inspired and rigidly enforced. Contrast again conditions in the ranching country and in the mining camps. We never had need of vigilantes or of rangers organized by the ranchers for their own protection. No doubt we have had our bad men, plenty of them, but they knew what would happen to them if they broke the law. Lynch law never gained a footing in our West and there were no lynchings on this side of the line. When the Force went after a man they got him, on the prairies or within the Arctic Circle and punishment followed crime as promptly and inexorably as fate.

The Force was a pioneer in the settlement and civilization of the country. From the very beginning it compelled and earned the respect of the Indians, and later on the respect, confidence and gratitude of the new settlers. From the very first, the new settler was impressed with the fair, just and certain enforcement of the law. From the boundary line to far North of the Arctic Circle, thanks to the Mounted Police, there never was a “Wild West” or an “unsafe North” in the North-West Territories. Among cattle ranches in Southern Alberta, in the mining camps of the Yukon, and far North within the Arctic Circle, life and property were as safe and secure as in any other part of the Dominion. Worthily has the motto of the Force, “Maintiens le Droit”, “Maintain the law, maintain the right”, been upheld.

There is no time tonight to tell of individual deeds of members of the Force. The records are full of them. If anyone wants to read tales of real romance of surpassing interest, let him look over the Annual Reports of the Force. I will merely mention one or two.

Photograph of Inspector Fitzgerald.

There is the heroism of the late Inspector Fitzgerald, whose story is so well known. There is the trip of Inspector La Nauze, who journeyed along the shores of the Arctic Sea until he found the murderers of the explorers of Radford and Street, and brought them back for trial after a thousand-mile journey of indescribable difficulties, and taught the savage tribes that the King’s Justice runs far North of 53.

The contribution of the whole Force to the North-West Territories is incalculable, and never can be fully realized or told. No more important national service has ever been performed or ever can be performed by any man or body of men in Canada. That service has not been performed amidst the glamour of pomp and circumstance of war, but quietly, always firmly and efficiently, and many times heroically as well. They may not have any victories won in battle to inscribe on their colours, but of them we may say with Milton, “Peace hath her victories no less renowned than war!”

We glory in the splendid deeds which win for our soldiers the Victoria Cross and other decorations, but I think I can truly stay that in proportion to their numbers, the story of the Force will show as many noble deeds of heroism and self-sacrifice as can be claimed by the most famous corps in any army…..”