IN THE Yukon the police had set a precedent for further northern service by showing that they could adapt to almost any physical conditions and perform a wide variety of duties. Considering the great success with which they had handled the difficulties there, it was only natural that the police would be called upon if further northern service was required.
And soon it was, not long after the Yukon began to decline in importance, for reasons that echoed those that had brought the force into the Yukon in the first place. In 1903, the government took notice of two remote areas under its nominal sovereignty -- the delta of the Mackenzie River and the west coast of Hudson Bay, and as a result police expeditions were sent to those two points.
Canada had held title to part of the Arctic islands since 1870, when it had acquired Rupert's Land, and to the remainder since 1880, when the rest of the Arctic was transferred by Britain to Canada. 1 Although the lieutenants-governor of Manitoba and the North-West Territories had a tenuous concern with these vast lands, they were in fact terra incognita as far as Ottawa was concerned. Diamond Jenness states the situation concisely: "Down to the very end of the nineteenth century . . . Canada completely neglected her Arctic. . . . As long as no other country attempted to gain a foothold in that region they [Canadians] were content to forget it and push on with the development of the southern provinces of the Dominion." 2 The reason why the federal government displayed no interest in these lands during the first twenty years they were owned by Canada, why all the famous names in the great nineteenth-century age of Arctic exploration are British, European, or American is easy to find: