The Online Encyclopedia and Dictionary






Royal Canadian Mounted Police


The Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP or Mounties; French, Gendarmerie royale du Canada, GRC) is both the federal police force and the National police of Canada. The RCMP provides federal (national), provincial and municipal police services. They operate under contract to Canada's three territories, eight of her provinces (with the exceptions of Ontario, Quebec, and parts of Newfoundland).

The RCMP are famous for their distinctive Red Serge, a scarlet ceremonial uniform with a stetson hat with a wide flat brim, and the Musical Ride. The Musical Ride is a ceremony in which 32 RCMP officers (Mounties) show off their horse riding skills and uniform in the execution of a variety of intricate figures and cavalry drills with music. In normal duties the RCMP use standard police methods, equipment, and uniforms.

The Mounties were immortalized as symbols of Canadian culture in numerous Hollywood movies, often featuring the image of the Mountie as square-jawed, stoic, and polite and with the motto that the Mountie "always gets his man." The most famous dramatic example is the radio and television series, Sergeant Preston of the Yukon. Dudley Do-Right (of The Rocky and Bullwinkle Show) is a 1960s example of the comic aspect of the Mountie myth. The Broadway musical and Hollywood movie Rose Marie is a 1930s example of its romantic side. The British have also exploited the myth: The Monty Python's Flying Circus BBC television show featured a group of mounties singing the chorus in "The Lumberjack Song" of the famous lumberjack sketch. Ren and Stimpy also parodied the Mounties in the episode "Royal Canadian Kilted Yaksmen". More recently, the 1994-8 TV series Due South paired a Mountie with a streetwise American detective cleaning up the streets of Chicago, mainly deriving entertainment from the percieved differences in attitude between these two countries' police forces.

It has been theorized that the international popularity of the force lay in that it represented a symbol of the balance of civilization and the frontier. That is, the RCMP is a police force that operates in the seemingly wild frontier, but operates under the behest of a central, if somewhat removed, bureaucratic authority back in the settled regions. In addition, the existence of the RCMP in Canada and the complete lack of any analogous organization in the Western United States during the frontier period has often been cited as both a cause and effect of cultural differences between Canada and the United States.



NWMP Lancer, 1875.
NWMP Lancer, 1875.

The RCMP were created under the name North West Mounted Police on May 23, 1873 by Sir John A. Macdonald, the first prime minister of Canada, with the intent of bringing law and order (and asserting Canadian sovereignty) over the North-West Territories (which then included modern day Alberta and Saskatchewan). This need was particularly urgent with reports of American whisky traders causing trouble in the region, culminating in the Cypress Hills Massacre. The force was initially going to be called the North West Mounted Rifles, but that was rejected as too military in nature, which Macdonald feared could antagonize both the First Nations and the Americans. Acting on a suggestion in his cabinet, Macdonald had the force wear red uniforms both to emphasize the British nature of the force and to differentiate it from the blue American military uniforms. The force was organized like a British cavalry regiment and carries on some of the traditions of those units, like the Musical Ride, to this day.

The NWMP's early activities included containing the whisky trade, and enforcing agreements with the First Nations peoples. To that end, the commanding officer of the force arranged to be sworn in as a justice of the peace, which allowed for a judiciary in the Mounties' jurisdiction. In the early years, the force's dedication to enforcing the law on the First Nations peoples' behalf impressed them enough to encourage good relations. In 1885, the NWMP were used to quell the North-West Rebellion led by Louis Riel.

NWMP Officers, Yukon, 1900.
NWMP Officers, Yukon, 1900.

In 1895, jurisdiction was extended to the Yukon during the Klondike Gold Rush where the force served with distinction under the command of Sam Steele making the gold rush one of the most peaceful and orderly affairs in history. Ironically, the force's dissolution was being discussed around this time in Parliament, but the Mounties' conduct so impressed the prospectors during the gold rush that the force became famous around the world and their survival was ensured.

In 1903 jurisdiction was extended to the Arctic coast, and in 1912 to northern Manitoba.

During the Boer War, the force raised the Canadian Mounted Rifles, mostly from NWMP members, for service in South Africa. For the CMR's distinguished service there, Edward VII honoured the NWMP by changing the name to the Royal North West Mounted Police on June 24, 1904.

On February 1, 1920 the RNWMP was merged with the Dominion Police and was renamed the Royal Canadian Mounted Police with responsibility for federal law enforcement in all provinces and territories.

In 1919 the RCMP was used to repress the Winnipeg General Strike when they fired into a crowd of strikers, killing two and causing injuries to thirty others.

RCMP patrolling with sled dogs, 1957.
RCMP patrolling with sled dogs, 1957.

In 1935 the RCMP, collaborating with the Regina city police, crushed the On-to-Ottawa Trek, which had been organized to call attention to the need for decent treatment of the unemployed men in the relief camps.

The RCMP schooner St. Roch allowed the first effective patrol of Canada's Arctic territory. It was the first vessel to navigate the Northwest Passage from west to east (1940-1942), also the first to navigate the Passage in one season (1944), and also the first to circumnavigate North America (1950).

In the 1920s, the RCMP assumed the duties of national counter-intelligence, which continued for decades. However, by the late 1970s, it was discovered the force had in the course of their intelligence duties engaged in crimes such as burning a barn and stealing documents from the separatist Parti Québécois, among other abuses. This led to the Royal Commission of Inquiry into Certain Activities of the RCMP , better known as the Macdonald Commission, named after the participating judge, David Macdonald. The commission recommended that the force's intelligences duties be removed in favour of the creation of a separate intelligence agency, which was named the Canadian Security Intelligence Service (CSIS).

Among themselves, the Mounties universally refer to their organization as "The Force."


The RCMP has the country divided in ‘divisions’ for commanding organization. In general, the RCMP calls each province a division. (e.g., Division C is Quebec). This rule is not perfect since the province of Ontario is divided in two divisions. There are two additional divisions like the RCMP Training Academy and the Ottawa region. The RCMP headquarters are located in Ottawa, Ontario.

During 1960s and 1970s, the RCMP had special constable s in their ranks. A side of regular members, their duties were to police the airports and in certain Canadian provinces the court houses. This program has been abolished in the 1980s or 1990s.

The RCMP in wartime

Although it is a police force, the RCMP has the status of a regiment of dragoons, and as such is entitled to wear battle honours for its war service. It was awarded this status in 1921, with its first guidon presented in 1935.

Battle Honours

Canada Boer War First World War Second World War
North West Canada 1885 South Africa 1900-02 France and Flanders 1918 Europe 1939-45
Siberia 1918-19


The rank system of the RCMP illustrates their origin as a paramilitary force. The ranks of the RCMP, in English and French with their insignia, are:

Name of rank in English / French Insignia

Commissioner / commissaire

Deputy commissioner / sous-commissaire Image:Rcmp-depcommissioner.jpg
Assistant commissioner / commissaire adjoint Image:Rcmp-asstcommissioner.jpg
Chief superintendent / surintendant principal Image:Rcmp-chiefsuperintendent.jpg
Superintendent / surintendant Image:Rcmp-superintendent.jpg
Inspector / inspecteur Image:Rcmp-inspector.jpg
Corps sergeant-major / sergent-major du corps Image:Rcmp-corpssergeantmajor.jpg
Sergeant-major / sergent-major Image:Rcmp-sergeantmajor.jpg
Staff sergeant-major / sergent-major d'état major Image:Rcmp-staffsergeantmajor.jpg
Staff sergeant / sergent d'état-major Image:Rcmp-staffsergeant.jpg
Sergeant / sergent Image:Rcmp-sergeant.jpg
Corporal / caporal Image:Rcmp-corporal.jpg
Constable / gendarme

See also

The following police forces take on the RCMP's provincial duties in the relevant provinces:

Related link

External links

  • The official website of the Royal Canadian Mounted Police
  • RCMP Museum

Last updated: 02-18-2005 23:18:12
Last updated: 05-03-2005 17:50:55