Showing the Flag: The Mounted Police and Canadian Sovereignty in the North, 1894-1925

By William R. Morrison | Go to book overview
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3. The Police and the Gold Rush

THE GOVERNMENT, however, was not to be given much time to develop a plan for governing the new district. In August 1896 the discovery of gold at Bonanza Creek gave to the whole matter an entirely new sense of urgency. The story of the immediate stampede of nearly all the men in the Yukon to the Klondike area, which has the rare distinction in Canadian history of being both melodramatic and true, needs no repetition. 1 But it greatly affected the operations of the police.

When the rush to the Dawson area occurred, the police naturally moved with the miners and transferred the centre of their operation to the new town. 2 This involved a good deal of confusion and the labour of building a post all over again. Fortunately, there was no immediate rush from the "outside"; because of the extreme slowness of communications the new discoveries did not become common knowledge until the early summer of 1897. Had the flood of gold-seekers managed to get to the Yukon in early 1897, the police, with their tiny detachment of twenty men, would likely have been swamped.

According to one chronicler of police legend, the force had been "for nearly a quarter of a century . . . been unconsciously preparing for this supreme test. . . . And -- true to its long-established principles of authority, though not borrowing trouble, and providing 'protection ahead of settlement' -- when the Rush developed, it was already on the ground. 3 True, the police were there at the right time largely because of fortuitous circumstance, but they were there, and that was what counted. Furthermore, they had done more than merely advertise their presence; they had established their authority by firm dealings with the miners. Con

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