Policing the Wild North-West: A Sociological Study of the Provincial Police in Alberta and Saskatchewan, 1905-32

By Zhiqiu Lin | Go to book overview

INTRODUCTION

“… the notion of the regulation and reconciliation of conflicts through the
rule of law … seems to me a cultural achievement of universal significance.”
– E. P. Thompson1

The North-West Mounted Police (NWMP) were the first public police, created by Sir John A. Macdonald in 1873 as a temporary measure to enforce law and order in the newly formed North-Western Territories. Macdonald’s objective was to “effectively occupy the west for Canada un til the growth of population established Canadian ownership beyond any doubt.”2 However, the NWMP, later called the Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP), did more than what Macdonald planned for them; they played an extremely active role in the settlement of western Canada in the latter part of nineteenth century. As a result, the history and image of the NWMP are so tightly woven into the fabric of Western identity that few have realized that for many years, every province of western Canada had its own police force. British Columbia had its provincial police dur ing 1858–1950; Manitoba during 1870–1932; Alberta during 1917–32 and Saskatchewan during 1917–28.3 This book is about the rise and fall of the provincial police in Alberta (1917–32) and Saskatchewan (1917–28). It in vestigates the transitions between federal and provincial responsibilities for policing in the two provinces during the period 1905–32 and examines the relationships between police development and the major changes in western Canada associated with immigration and settlement, World War I, prohibition, and the Great Depression.

The 1867 British North American (BNA) Act, following the British legal tradition that law enforcement should be in the hands of local govern ments, explicitly endowed the provinces with policing power in Canada. In addition to Manitoba and British Columbia, Quebec also created its

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