THE ROYAL CANADIAN MOUNTED POLICE
AN ADDRESS BY MAJOR-GENERAL SIR JAMES H.
MACBRIEN, K.C.B., C.M.G., D.S.O. (since deceased)
Thursday, November 18th, 1937
PRESIDENT: Lord Digby, Our Guests, Members of the
Empire Club of Canada: We are pleased to have as our guests today to honour our speaker, representatives of the various organizations with whom he comes in contact. Also, we welcome the President of the Royal Winter Fair, Mr. Gordon Perry, and the Army Teams competing at that Fair. (Applause.) At the head table we have the captains of those teams, from the Irish Free State, Belgium, Holland, the United States of America and our own Captain Bate. I think it is only fitting at this time to express our congratulations to Captain Bate and the members of the Canadian Team on their great success in New York last week. (Applause.)
Flanked on either side by so many Major-Generals and Generals and with the eye of the law upon me from the Dominion, Provincial and City representatives, I am probably the most guarded person in the country today. And I was taught some years ago not to speak until the Senior Officer had spoken. I should not be speaking now. Today, however, we have got our man and our guest-speaker, the Commissioner of the Royal Canadian Mounted Police with us. They are known throughout the world as the silent force, yet today we are to have the pleasure of having that silence broken. Major-General Sir James MacBrien has had a remarkable and a distinguished career. His has been a life of service to this country and to the Empire. He has shown he is possessed of that great quality needed today in this country and all countries, the quality of good leadership and he has also been an example to all who have served under him.
From those who saw the Coronation procession we learn that the Mounties stole the show. How thrilled we Canadians were who listened over the radio and heard the announcer say, "Here they come--the Royal Canadian Mounted Police."
And so it is that I have a feeling of great pride as a Canadian to introduce to you the Commanding Officer of that great force, the Commisioner, Major-General Sir James H. MacBrien, and as our guest speaker, his subject is, "The History, Organization, Training and Work of the Royal Canadian Mounted Police." Sir James. (Applause.)
MAJOR-GENERAL SIR JAMES H. MACBRIEN, K.C.B., C.M.G., D.S.O.: Mr. President, Fellow Guests and Gentlemen: I appreciate your welcome. I appreciate the invitation which has brought me here as your guest for the third time within the last twelve years. I was your guest about twelve years ago when I was Chief of Staff' of the Defence Department. I spoke to you on that occasion of the situation in the Far East, which is now just as critical. Then I was your guest again and I spoke to you on aviation in which I was engaged at the time. Now, I come as a Commissioner of your National Police Force, this makes my third time and it is probably a case of three strikes and out.
It is a great privilege to be here with Lord Digby whose reputation has preceded him and it is also a great privilege to be here with the members of the International Military Teams, many of whom I know quite well. I got to know them in New York where I saw their splendid performances.
I accepted your invitation to speak to you today because of your name, your reputation and what your Club stands for. It has been part of my ambition during my years of service to help weld this Empire of ours more closely together. (Applause.) Therefore, I thought it my duty to accept when I was invited to come and speak to you and give you an idea of the work of your National Police Force.
I am to speak to you first of the early history, of its present organization, something of the training and, finally, of the different phases of the work. I had intended to speak to you quite briefly until I had a second letter from your President, asking me to speak for at least forty-five minutes, as the time on the radio had been engaged for that period. I don't know whether I can keep it up that long or not. I am not a public speaker. I am simply a plain policeman. "You would not expect one of my profession to speak with rhetoric on a stage like this, so if I should fall below Demosthenes or Cicero, do not view me with a fixed eye, but pass my imperfections by."
The history of the North West Mounted Police, as it was originally known, and that of Western and Northern Canada are inseparably linked. That portion of our Canadian West which is west of Winnipeg and east of the Rockies in 1870 was acquired by the Dominion Government from the Hudson's Bay Company for a sum of a million and a half dollars. At that time no form of government or control of any description existed in that part of the country which afterward became known as the Northwest Territories. The natives, the Indians, did pretty much what they wished. The country was over-run with outlaws of different descriptions, some of them from our neighbours to the south, some of them our own natives, and they made the country unsafe to live in.
Fairly interesting patrols were made out through the West, immediately after the First Riel Rebellion in 1869 which was won by Captain Butler who had been on Lord Wolseley's staff. He travelled through the Rockies and back and wrote a book worth reading, called "The Great Lone Land." In -this book he foretells the development that has since taken place in the west and he quoted from the great American poet, Whittier, as follows
"I hear the tread of nations,
Of empires yet to be,
The dull low wash of waves where yet
Shall roll a human sea."
Two years later the Adjutant General of the Canadian Militia, Colonel Ross Robertson, a name well known in Toronto, made a similar trip through the west and made recommendations to the government, the same as Captain Butler had made. Acting on the two recommendations the Government in 1873, which is a period three years afterward, took action to form the North-West Mounted Police.
Just at this period, when the decision was being made to form the police the Cypress Hill Massacre occurred and immediately in August of 1873, the government commenced the recruiting of the first three troops of the North-West Mounted Police. The first three troops were mobilized without horses at Collingwood, Ontario, and proceeded by what was then known as the Dawson route, by boat to Port Arthur and thence by canoe, portage and march to Fort Garry, what is now known as Winnipeg.
It was decided that the Force should be a cavalry regimental organization, that they would wear military uniform and the red serge, now we'll known, was adopted because it was felt that it would impress the Indians, which it did. When the Indians saw the red or scarlet tunic they said, "We know that the soldiers of our Great Mother wear red coats and will be our friends." As a matter of fact, the red coat has been a great factor in the success of the NorthWest Mounted Police ever since that time.
The first Commissioner appointed was Colonel George A. French, a British Army Officer on loan to Canada at that time in command of "B" Battery at Kingston, which is now in command of Brigadier Elkins who is at .the table here. Colonel French was sent to Fort Garry and took charge of the troops. He appreciated the situation and decided he did not have enough men. Only 150 were sent out on the first contingent. Almost immediately after, within a few weeks anyway he returned to Ottawa and persuaded the government to double the force, to increase the strength to 900, which was done in the spring of 1874. These three additional troops went out with horses by train, by way of Detroit, Chicago and St. Paul, up to Fargo. Leaving the train at Fargo, they marched north to Emerson, then called Duflerin, inside the border of Canada, where they met the three troops that moved on from Winnipeg.
So, for the first time, in July 1874, the Commissioner had his troops together, numbering 300, and about the same number of horses, and he had the task with these men of bringing law and order to the western portion of our country. He immediately decided on a show of force, such as he had. On the 8th of July he commenced a march westward to the Rocky Mountains. Two troops were detached and sent north to what is now called Edmonton. With the remaining troops he moved to a point near Fort MacLeod, a place well named Fort "Whoop-up," which was the headquarters of the bootleggers from the United States. They had erected a fort and were flying the flag of the United States at that point. After, many vicissitudes he arrived at his destination. The bootleggers retreated to their own country and eleven detachments were established at strategical points through the west and he returned with the bulk of his force to Winnipeg to spend the winter, as the headquarters at Swan River had been finished. He completed a march of 2,000 miles which is a long way to go, as you will agree. Anyone who has been connected with cavalry will agree that 'to do 2,000 miles over undeveloped country like that was a very fine performance. It won for the Mounted Police the name which has stuck to us ever since, "The Riders of the Plains." A poet of that day described it as follows:
"Our mission is to plant the flag Of British freedom here,
Restrain the lawless savage, And protect the pioneer. And its a proud and daring trust To hold these vast domains With but three hundred mounted men "The Riders of the Plains."
After that great march was over the next task really was to gain the good will of the Indians. This was done during the next year or two most successfully, so successfully that the government almost immediately was able to conclude treaties with the various tribes which have stood until this day, because the Indians accepted us as their friends and protectors. In 18'75 the Force succeeded in rounding up those who committed the Massacre at Cypress Hill, two years previously.
In 1876 a very dangerous situation arose in the West through 5,000 of Sitting Bull's warriors crossing the border into Canada and remaining in our country as unwelcome guests for a period of five years. During the whole of the time they were there they were a menace to the inhabitants, to the peace of that part of he country, but eventually they were persuaded to return to their own country. It has been described as the first visit of the American tourists to Canada. They were just as unwelcome as our present visitors from the United States are welcome.
Perhaps the next exciting affair to tell you about was the affair with Almighty Voice, who shot one of our sergeants. He succeeded in keeping away from us for two years but eventually he was captured and suffered the consequences of his crime.
Now, in 1882, the construction of the Canadian Pacific Railway was commenced and for the next three years we had a very busy time keeping the Indians quiet because they were very opposed to the construction of the railway across the prairies. In 1885 the unrest the Indians had shown broke out through the half-breeds and we had the Riel Rebellion of 1885. The strength of the Mounted Police was promptly brought up to 1,000. It performed a very honourable part in the putting down of the rioting.
As soon as the railway was finished in 1885 the settlers began to pour in and new settlements were springing up all over the west and it was then that the patrol work on horse-back that your Force is known so well for commenced. A system of divisions, posts, detachments and patrols was instituted. Each detachment had certain areas to patrol. All sorts of duties besides the ordinary police duties were performed for the country, such as the duties of Customs Officers, Justices of the Peace, Gaoler's, Postmasters, and the suppression of illicit liquor traffic, horse stealing and other crimes. Of course, the latter ones are police work.
In 1895, the next excitement the Force experienced was the news of gold in the Yukon. Some one made a very wise decision at that time to send Superintendent Constantine, father of the Adjutant General of our Force, to the Yukon with a detachment. He was established there in 1896 and when the greatest gold rush in history took place in 1898, the Mounted Police were on the spot and maintained law and order in a manner that excited the admiration of the world.
In 1897 the Force was first honoured by Her Majesty by being asked to send a contingent to the Diamond Jubilee. We are very proud to think that we have been honoured in the same way at the coronation of the three monarchs since that time.
In the South African War we played also an honourable part. The Force was drawn on very heavily at that time for the Canadian Mounted Rifles, the Strathcona Horse, the South African Constabulary, and other units that took part. We also have that on our' colours.
By 1904, our patrols had penetrated the Peace River country, down the Mackenzie River to its mouth, and out as far as Herschel Island, 150 miles out into the Arctic. We had also penetrated into the northern part of the Yukon and in this year, 1904, Corporal Mapley carried out a very marvellous patrol from Dawson City across into the valley of the Mackenzie River, a distance of 1,000 miles, and for a good many years that was the method of sending the mail into the lower part of the Mackenzie River Valley by sending it to Dawson and across by our patrols, across the Richardson and the Mackenzie Mountains. Eventually, though, we had a great disaster on that route. Captain Fitzgerald and three men lost their lives through losing their way.
In 1904 the Force was honoured by being given the title "Royal," and it became known as the Royal Northwest Mounted Police.
Now, we will come to the Great War, and again the Force was very heavily drawn on for different contingents, different units that went overseas and eventually the Force was privileged to send a squadron to France and a squadron to Siberia. Both acquitted themselves very well indeed. Two former members of the Mounted Police won the Victoria Cross, Colonel G. R. Pearks, whom you know of, formerly a Corporal in the Mounted Police, and Lieutenant Michael O'Leary, whose name will be dear to our Irish friends who are here today. (Applause.)
In 1920 the Force was made the national police force of Canada and its name was altered to the Royal' Canadian Mounted Police. The headquarters were moved down to Ottawa and we absorbed the old Dominion Police and took over their, protective duties. Under the Royal Canadian Mounted Police Act we also are permitted to do provincial and municipal police work, when agreements have been reached with the provinces.
From 1906 to 1922 patrols were sent up to the Eastern Arctic by boat but it was not until 1922 that the first permanent detachment was established on Ellesmere Land, within a distance of about 900 miles of the pole. Soon afterward it was moved from Craig Harbour to Bache Peninsula, 200 miles nearer the pole, so that continued for many years to be our most northern detachment. Patrols from that point northward have been within 400 miles of the pole.
In 1928 we took over the provincial police work of Saskatchewan. They had had their own police force for a few years back had asked for the services of the Mounted police back so we absorbed the Saskatchewan Provincial police in that year and we have been doing their provincial work ever since.
I might mention here that I returned to the Mounted Police after an absence of 30 years in 1931. Almost a complete re-organization of the Mounted Police was commenced in that year. New duties were assumed almost immediately. We took on the provincial police work of six provinces, giving us a total of six out of the nine and that provincial police work now constitutes about sixty per cent of our total work. We also took over the preventive service duties from the Department of National Revenue. That is the proper enforcement of those provisions of those two acts that have to do with the province of smuggling of every description, chiefly liquor, of course, and narcotics, and in that connection we have some very interesting work. We also protect the migratory birds. We even have to carry out a census of the number of birds coming north and going south each year.
So, we found at the end of 1932, the Force that had started in 1873 with the strength of 300, or 150, if you wish, at the end of 1932 amounted to over 3,000, including a few civilians we employ.
In 1933 we celebrated our Diamond jubilee by doing a record amount of work and commencing the publication of our regimental magazine which was an educational magazine published quarterly. Also in that year we got a Long Service Medal authorized. We also got pensions authorized for the dependents of the members of the Force serving the required period or dying during service. Up to that time their dependents had no such protection.
Now, we come to our present organization. We have our headquarters in Ottawa. We are divided into fourteen divisions, three of which are in Ontario, because we have our headquarters in Ottawa. Two of them are there for that reason. Otherwise, our divisions coincide with the provincial boundaries pretty much. We have in Ottawa, too, the "G" Division, or the Arctic Division. We control our work in the Arctic now from Ottawa by wireless almost entirely. The Yukon is a division by itself, with headquarters at Dawson. Our divisions are all divided into subdivisions, Sections, Patrol Areas and Detachment Areas. At Ottawa you find the Commissioner's Office and a small staff. A most interesting branch is the Criminal Investigation Branch, which supervises all the police work the Force does of every nature. Then, we come to another section, the National Finger Print Bureau and Fire Arms Registration. As you know all revolvers are now registered and we have registered upward of 165,000 up to date. I imagine we haven't registered more than about half of what are in the country. We have the finger prints for the whole of Canada. All police reports are sent to us and are classified and are there for reference when needed. We have the Preventive Service about which I will speak a little later. That is a separate branch. There is the Intelligence Branch. That might form a subject of a lecture or an address by itself. We keep track of the funny sort of people who come to our shores or who develop peculiarities in this country.
We have a Ticket of Leave Branch. We keep track of all who are let out on leave from our government institutions. We have a Scientific Section in Ottawa now, and another one at Regina. We are calling in science to aid us in the detection of crime and in that section of Ottawa we have a photographic unit. We are training our men to use cameras for taking pictures of scenes of crime, as well as taking pictures of finger prints off door knobs and window panes.
We have an Administrative Branch under a Deputy Commissioner. He deals with discipline, supply, pay and matters of that sort.
We are in the act of forming a new branch, called Training and Education. It is considered necessary at the moment to have this Branch to study the systems and methods of other countries and to look into and profit by their experience.
Now, we come to the last part of our organization, that is the Reserve. That was formed this year. The Force never had a reserve. One was authorized and we recruited it on the 1st of July. We got in 300 of the finest looking young men I have even seen recruited on a quota basis, right across Canada. They were trained for two months and we didn't have a single misdemeanor at any of the four stations where they were trained. We could have taken 195 of them as being fit to take their place in our ranks. This Reserve Force is available at any time to reinforce the main part of the Force in case of necessity and it is intended to draw most of our recruits in the future from that force because the period of training, two months, is ample time to look them over and select the best from them.
Our strength today, as I mentioned, is about 3,000, including civilians. We, alas, have only 211 horses. We have 439 dogs though, and some of them are police dogs. Most of them are sleigh dogs. We have a fleet of 524 motor vehicles that travel over 3 millions of miles a year. We have at the moment only four aeroplanes, although we have been employing about ten of the Royal Canadian Air Force. This year we formed our own section, using our own personnel who had former experience and at the moment although we only own four aeroplanes, we hope to expand that section slowly as the need arises. We have a fleet of t 16 vessels, from canoes up to ocean craft. About 40 are employed, in the prevention of smuggling, chiefly, on the east coast, some on the west. They are used heavily on the east where our fellow countrymen have a great taste for rum. We have 232 sailors who wear sailor's uniforms and with the name "Royal Canadian Mounted Police" on their caps.
We have 225 men in our mounted section.
Now, about the recruiting. Particular attention has been paid to our recruiting. We have an average of between 4,000 and 5,000 applicants a year. We have only been able to take out of those an average of about 200, so we have had a wide selection. Naturally, we have taken the opportunity of raising our physical standard and our educational standard and our, moral standard, too. It is said it is hard to get into the Mounted Police but it is easy to get out.
We had an applicant the other day who said he had been occupying a situation in an important government institution. We found that was true. We checked up his finger prints. Needless to say, he wasn't enlisted.
Apart from the physical examination we have quite a high standard of education, that of junior matriculation, and we get a good number in who have been one or more years .at university. Some of them are graduates. A good many have been at the Royal Military College, some are graduates. All have to go through the ranks and earn their promotion, step by step. We put them into various categories and, of course, we take the top, the outstanding recruits.
All recruits are trained in our main Depot at Regina and it is a very long process because we find police work is very complicated and we have to give our men a fair chance of catching the up-to-date criminal. They have to have long and careful training. Those who do well in the Depot are naturally the first to go out. From the recruits in the Depot we choose those we want to go to the Mounted Section, and that is done in the Depot, too.
For training in the Marine Section the applicants are drawn from those with sea experience, and they are sent to Halifax and trained with the help of the Royal Canadian Navy.
With the Aviation Section, the Flying Clubs and the Royal Canadian Air Force help with the training of the recruits in this section.
The training is comprehensive and consists of advanced instruction in ballistics, typewriting, some shorthand, Dominion and provincial police work, counterfeiting, safe blowing, lectures on scientific aids to crime detection, development of powers of investigation and so on. We have numerous courses for promotion. We have refresher courses which I won't have time to tell you about, in order to keep the Force up to date.
Now, the work of the Force. I must hurry on. We have the Federal duties first, such as: Explosives Act, Indian Act, Fisheries, Immigration Act, Migratory Birds Convention Act, Railway Act, Naturalization Act, Ticket of Leave Act and Opium and Narcotic Drug Act.
Then we have the provincial work for the six provinces, as I mentioned. Then we come to the Preventive Service Work where we employ about 300 land men, 220 members of the Marine Section, with from 35 to 40 vessels and the 4 aeroplanes, in the prevention of smuggling of liquor and narcotics. Perhaps that is as interesting a phase of the work as we have. We have the work of protecting the public buildings in Ottawa, and the dockyards at Halifax and the magazines wherever they are situated in the same way.
We are an emergency police force, too. We supply reinforcements to any province that requires them, or any city. Usually once or twice a year we are asked to send reinforcements to this or that city or this or that province.
Now, we come to our Northern Service where we get our greatest publicity, which we do not seek for. It comprises all the part of Canada north of .the Goth Parallel, a third of the whole of Canada, and in that whole area there are, including the Yukon, only about 12,000 or 13,000 people. We police that vast region with a hundred men about 35 or 36 detachments. They have motor boats, canoes and dog teams. Most of the travel is done along the river, both summer and winter, or along the great lakes, and that is how we handle our detachments in the north. We do almost every job you can think of in the north for that portion of the country. We are organized there, of course, in sub-divisions and detachments, the same as we are in the west.
There are two patrols in the North. I can give an idea of the work done there. One man, Inspector joy, in 1929 travelled over 1700 miles from North Devon Island westward to an island called Melville Land, thence northeasterly to Bache Peninsula on Ellesmere Land, making a total distance of 1700 miles and occupying 81 days. We do a certain number of those patrols every year, called exploratory patrols, to find the nature of the country, what is in and who is in it.
Then, in 1930 and 31, patrols were carried out amounting to 2,300 miles by two patrols, one doing 1,500 and the other Boo, looking for the lost explorer by the name of Krueger, a German explorer who lost himself in the North. They didn't succeed in finding him. That party suffered a good deal of hardship. They were out a long time and they came back very hungry. They had eaten 29 out of the 125 dogs before getting back.
One of the most important of our units in the north is a boat, a vessel, called the St. Roch, with a crew of 12. It goes up, for three year periods, from Vancouver, around Alaska and distributes supplies to detachments in the North. It does certain patrol work by water. It carries two or three teams of dogs on board and does the work with them in the winter time. It is a self-contained unit, connected by wireless to us in Ottawa.
In 1880 Great Britain handed over to Canada the Arctic Island Archipelago and up in that part, on Ellesmere Land, we do a great deal of this long distance patrol work.
Now, my time is up. I misjudged it somewhat.
There is a great variety to our work, as you will see from the enumeration of the different phases I have given you. Some of it is intensely interesting, such as the detective and undercover work, the preventive service work and the northern service. There is also a lot of humdrum work in connection with provincial police work but it is not too much to say, and it has happened, that a constable of ours, or a non-commissioned officer, might be riding horses in Regina, he might be observing from an aeroplane over the Pacific Coast or the Atlantic Coast, and he might be driving a dog team in the North, all in the space of one year.
Important as the services of the Royal Canadian Mounted Police are, at present I feel the future holds even greater responsibility for us. There are still certain duties which could be entrusted to us with advantage and so that greater value could be derived from our national police force. The Force, as your President said, is known as the "Silent Force." You won't believe that after hearing this long oration from me, but most of our good work has been done through avoiding publicity and working quietly over a very considerable period.
The correct motto of the Force is not "Get your Man," it is "Maintain the Right." There is a story about getting your man that I might tell you. It is supposed to be the origin of the expression, "Get your Man." A patrol was sent out 500 miles to arrest an Indian. He was arrested and they got back within a day's patrol of the post when unfortunately the prisoner was eaten by wolves and they had to go all the way back to the reservation to get another Indian. (Laughter.)
We act on the principle that prevention is better than cure in police work. The Force was never in better condition than it is today, for reasons I have explained. It never had better men, never better educated men. They are better trained, they are better conditioned in service and housing, they have better pay, there is a better, spirit, naturally, and spirit is everything. The duties today are performed with fairness, I hope, and without fear, affection or favour of any one. We try to perform our duties with a sense of justice and good manners, gaining the trust and confidence of the community at large.
I do not claim the present condition of the Force as due to me. It is rather the result of the accumulative effort of all those who have given of their best during the last thirty odd years. The keynote of the Force, if I could sum it up is that of loyalty, loyalty to the King, loyalty to Canada, our country, loyalty to the Empire, and very important, too, loyalty to the Force and loyalty to each other.
Now, finally, I think you will agree with the poet from Calgary, Mr. W. H. Foster, who wrote these lines
Long live these patriotic sons!
Long may their prowess ring!
Upholders of our nation's laws,
Defenders of the King.
May justice grow and Truth hold sway,
Throughout our vast domains
Protected by our Redcoat boys
The Riders of the Plains.
I apologize, Mr. President, for taking longer than I estimated. I appreciate being your, guest and I thank you all for your patience in listening to me. (Applause.)
PRESIDENT: Sir James, your third strike being a four bagger, you start all over again. We appreciate greatly your honouring us today and bringing closer to home the work of the great force of which we are justly proud. On behalf of the Empire Club of Canada, our Guests, and the radio audience, I offer you our grateful thanks.