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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5. The Police and Yukon Politics

THE YUKON was made a Territory on 13 June 1898, partly in response to local demand and partly to make it quite clear that the area was to be in no way governed from Regina. 1 The new Yukon Territory was to have a measure of local government, in the form of a council, which was appointed by the commissioner of the Yukon. As commander of the police in the Territory, Steele was a member of the first council, which was made up entirely of government administrators. The other members were the gold commissioner, the local judge, the registrar, and a legal adviser. Meetings were at first held in camera, but this practice proved so unpopular with the citizenry that they were declared open in August 1899. 2

The Territorial Council concerned itself chiefly with local conditions. It passed bylaws for Dawson and regulations for the Yukon in general and in this respect worked in close cooperation with the police. When police officials discovered an abuse that was not covered by an existing law, they had no hesitation in writing to the commissioner to suggest that a suitable one be drawn up. 3 Similarly, when the commissioner received complaints from the citizens that the laws were being broken, he worked with the police to secure evidence against the offenders. 4 Many examples can be cited to show the spirit of ready cooperation which existed between the police and commissioner. Since the commissioner was ex officio in command of the police, his jurisdiction was clear. If a commissioner was not easy to get along with, friction would arise. Some of the incidents involving the police being forced to act in menial capacities for civil servants, for instance, seem to have originated with J. M. Walsh. 5 On the

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