UNDER THEIR VARIOUS NAMES, 1 the Mounted Police have played a vital and often controversial role in Canadian history, and nowhere has this been more true than in the Canadianization of this country's northern frontier. But this is more than just the history of a remarkable body of men. It is about differing concepts of authority and the role of government in new country. As such, it is an excellent example of the process of metropolitanism at work in Canada.
The story told here is not about the north from the inside, but rather an examination of the process by which the Canadian government, in roughly the first quarter of this century, sought to assert its sovereign rights over the Yukon and the Northwest Territories. The "frontier" moved steadily, separating territory in which the authority of government was actual from that in which it was only nominal -- in short, it was a frontier of sovereignty.
Canada has historically had two kinds of sovereignty -- "symbolic" and "developmental." 2 Symbolic sovereignty consists of actions taken to fulfil the formal requirements of sovereignty under international law. The most important of these is occupation, but they include various demonstrations designed to show, partly to the inhabitants of the territory, but particularly to the rest of the world, that the state is sovereign there. Sometimes these actions are of a practical nature: carrying the Yukon mail during the gold rush is a good example, since the administration of a postal service is an internationally accepted proof of sovereignty. 3 Sometimes they were entirely symbolic, such as the establishment of a post office at the Bache Peninsula Detachment on Ellesmere Island in