Salt Spring Island Archives

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Constable Jim Harrison

Constable Harrison gives an overview of the RCMP in Canada from 1873, with some comments on being a police officer on SSI in the present.

Accession Number 989.031.044 Detailed Tape Guide yes
Date Oct. 14, 1986 Location Cassette tapes box File #24 to File #48 Shelf 8C
Media Audio CD
ID 39 Topic The History of the RCMP




Unknown Speaker 0:00
Well, it's not a very good way to start a presentation to a group of people as distinguished as you. But first off, I must apologize. I've had a hectic day to day with our court system as as it were. At the very last moment I in a frenzy, I was phoning Tony to tell him that I had just been informed at 1030 this morning that I was required in court this afternoon for a case that I had not been previously warned about. However, we did manage to get through that difficulty. I don't know what shape we got through it in but I left the courthouse in quite a hurry. The next apology I make is obviously the haircut that you're looking at is not a regimental haircut of the RCMP. However, Tony did mention my wife, who also is my barber. And I've made it my habit for the last 10 years of our marriage to have her cut my hair, I entrust it to no one else. And unfortunately, I've just gotten her out of Nanaimo regional hospital where she had abdominal surgery. And she tells me that I might be looking like this for another week or two. So I'll make that apology as well. Getting on to the subject the history of the the RCMP in particular history here on on Saltspring Island. Unfortunately, there is not a tremendous amount of information in regard to the history of the Royal Canadian Mounted Police on Saltspring Island. I don't think there's anything really substantial in any archives anywhere that is recorded for history sake on on Saltspring Island. However, having said that, I'd like to say that in 1874, when the Northwest mounted police were marching West, I am quite confident that they would have marched an awful lot faster had they known that they would have ultimately arrived and Saltspring on. However, it took until approximately 1950, at which time the Royal Canadian Mounted Police absorbed the BC provincial police. And at that time, it became a provincial contract with the Royal Canadian Mounted Police for supplying the policing services on Saltspring Island. I'm certain that we have had a very colorful history here on the island. However, the time honored method of passing history down which I'm sure you all know, history is is seldom recorded properly in pen and paper. However, it is handed down by word of mouth. And unfortunately, our detachment has lost a great resource just recently, in regard to that time honored method of passing down history with the transfer of constable ace Mainwaring, who I'm sure many of you knew. Constable Mainwaring served here for a period of 10 years, which represents a substantial period in the history of the RCMP on Saltspring Island. Considering that we've probably only been working here for 36 years so fully a quarter of the time that the RCMP has been here, Constable Mainwaring could have related many excellent stories. However, he did pass on some legacy, which I'll get into a little later. What I'd like to do in the in the meantime, is perhaps fill you in a little bit on the national history of the Mounted Police. I'm sure some of you as Canadian citizens are aware of the significance that the Royal Canadian Mounted Police has in our country. And as a young member of the mounted police force, I'm quite proud of the past accomplishments of our police force in May 23, at ninth air of 1873 by an act of parliament, the Northwest mounted police were created. Sir John A Macdonald, the prime minister at that time, had a tremendous amount of wisdom in regard to the creation of the Northwest mounted police. He decided that prior to sell a settlement of a great western area, which prior to that time was called Rupert's land, and under the direct control of the Hudson's Bay Company, that prior to the settlement of that great area, which at the time, they referred to as northwest territories that the establishment of law and order should occur first. This was quite different from the experience of our American neighbors to the south. Because the way their West was colonized was very simply, we put the people in first and we'll worry about law and order next. However, learning from the experience of the Americans sir Johnny did apply his wisdom and decided that a mounted troop of horsemen, and policemen would be sent to the west to establish law and order prior to the citizens arriving to colonize. And as a result of that wisdom, our western history is not quite as colorful and violence as the American experience was. The original idea for the mounted police or the original basis upon which it was it was drafted up Was it was modeled on the royal Irish Constabulary. And the idea behind it was it was to be a police force not military force. However, it was to remain military or paramilitary as far as rank, structure and discipline went. And to this day that still exists. The other thing that is distinctive about the Royal Canadian Mounted Police and the northwest Mounted Police, as it was called at that time, is the distinct of scarlet tunic. This basically came about because of the fact that prior to Confederation, when the area between what is now Canada and the United States, the border area along the 49th parallel, when it was plotted out by a group of Royal Engineers, they wore the red tunic of their regiment. The native people on the prairies and throughout the West, respected and cooperated with the native people at the time of that engineering feat, where they actually mapped out the border between Canada and the United States. As a result of that, and the fact that the native people did recognize a red tunic. The Northwest Mounted Police adopted that as the color of their tunic and uniform. And I must say that it has served us well over the years. And it remains an integral part of our uniform, as you see in local parades and Remembrance Day functions and things of that nature where we do try and get our members out to let the citizens see that we are in fact really Mounties still. The primary purpose originally besides establishing law and order in the West, in the areas now of Saskatchewan, or Manitoba, Saskatchewan and Alberta. One of the other primary purposes was to stop the whiskey trade with the Indians. A group of American traders as I recall at the time, Freebooters had crossed over the border into Canadian territory. And we're serving the America or the native Indians of Canada with a concoction that certainly couldn't be called liquor, but it was alcoholic in nature. It included everything from molasses to tobacco, including red ink thrown into it. And as the native people had no use for money, they traded quite quite vigorously with this whiskey that the Americans brought. Also these Americans brought with them their own form of order, which was pretty much non existent as we know it now, but certainly was a degree of long lawlessness, and as a result of a massacre in of Assiniboine Indians, in the sweetgrass Hills area. This was sort of the final straw that led to the creation and the establishment of the Northwest Mounted Police in a West. During the march West, the force as it was approximately 300 men at the time, originally it was 150 when they decided they would recruit another series of troops of men of 150, bringing the total strength 250 They marched West, arrived in Alberta, present day Alberta. One group of Northwest Mounted Police headed north to Fort Edmonton, the other group headed south to the Sweet Grass Hills area, where the notorious American whiskey traders fort fort move up, was located or was alleged to be located. And after quite a track where the exhausted members of the force arrived at the site of Fort whoop up, they found obviously that the American side word they were coming in disappeared very quickly because they certainly were not willing to face the law of Canada. The first fort was established being Fort Macleod on the Old Man River shortly after that and served as the first headquarters of the Northwest Mounted Police in the West. Very quickly, the American whiskey trade died out faced with law and order they certainly did not wish to continue. The next great challenge was an 18 777 When the man 1000s of Sioux Indians arrived at the border of Canada being chased vigorously by the American cavalry I might add. They arrived under Sitting Bull, Chief Sitting Bull I'm sure everybody's heard about it. Obviously, as a result of the massacre of the Fennec colonel, customers troops a little big corn. Sitting Bull and his Sioux Indians were running like crazy. The Sioux Indians at that time were traditional enemies of the Canadian Native Indian, such as the Blackfoot Confederacy, Confederacy and other groups of that nature. And it was suspected that a tremendous degree of trouble would occur when they arrived in Canadian territory. They were met by two members of the Northwest Mounted Police 1000s of Indians.

Unknown Speaker 9:50
One of them happened to be Assistant Commissioner McLeod, who our history tells us was extremely brave man he letter extremely foolish I'm not certain, but he did have results, and certainly the Sioux Indian by that time, were smart enough to realize that if they were to cause trouble in Canada, they would have nowhere else to run their brief stay of approximately two years in Canada, there were no major incidents, and no violent uprisings occurred between the Indian tribes which had been expected. In 1879, Chief Sitting Bull returned to North Dakota and surrendered himself to the Americans. And most of the Sioux Indians who had arrived with him had returned to the American states and were placed on reservation. The next challenge was the building of the Canadian Pacific Railway. And there were very few obstacles due to the assistance of the Northwest Mounted Police. There were some colorful occurrences, perhaps one of the most colorful occurrences being when chief pi pot and members of his tribe set up several tents in front of the intended course of the tracks. Corporal wiles of our force accompanied by another constable got off his horse asked the chief to move is dance the chief refused. At that time, the constable looked after the horses while Corporal Wilde walked over and took the tents down himself, without opposition and the railway proceeded. There was, however, a black mark of sorts during the construction of the CPR being that there was a large strife in our forces certainly not proud of the fact that we did play a part in suppressing the strike upon the orders of the Dominion government at the time, because it was of the utmost importance to the Government of Canada that the Canadian Pacific Railway be established on time. To facilitate the entry of British Columbia into Confederation. British Columbians had refused to join Confederation unless they had their railway. And they had joined Confederation but it was a promise that the Dominion government did want to keep and inspector Sam steel, will I'm sure the name might ring a bell if you think of places like Ford steel and things of that nature. Inspector Sam steel was leader of that contingents of mounted policemen who worked with the CPR. The next challenge, again, kind of colorful was the Northwest rebellion in 1885, led by Louie Riel, cheese, poundmaker, and other native Indians. Our force acted primarily at that point as local scouts for the militia, under I believe, was General Middleton to suppress suppress the rebellion, the only action that our force did get involved in directly where there were members of our air force acting as soldiers in the rebellion was the incident at duck Lake, where a fort was surrounded by the rebels. And the RCMP beat a hasty retreat out in the early hours of the morning on a raft on the river and retreated. Not a glorious history for the force and battle during the rebellion. However, we did play a significant part in acting as guides for the militia, which did ultimately suppress that rebellion. The next major challenge to our force was the Klondike Gold Rush, perhaps and perhaps to this date, it is still known as being one of the most peaceful gold rushes in history. This again was a result of the Northwest Mounted Police working under by this time, Superintendent Sam Steel had been promoted and 285 members of the Northwest mounted police, they set up stringent regulations controlling entry into our country entry to the past and the gold fields, including regulations that demanded that the vessels used on the lakes and rivers be inspected to see that they were absolutely safe for travel. Also, each person wanting to crass cross through the past, had to have supplies for up to one year to keep that person going. Main reason for that was a person had supplies, he certainly wouldn't have to steal from other people. As were the case originally, like at the very start of the Gold Rush, several people rushed head forward into the gold rush. Without adequate provisions, and theft and problems of that nature were abundant prior to the arrival of Northwest mounted police. The Gold Rush is considered a very colorful time in Canada's history. However, it was not considered a very violent time. And the stories of the Gold Rush there's very few stories of violence, such as stories of the American counterpart in the California gold rush. In 1904, King Edward granted the prefix royal to the title of the amount of police was now the ROI A Northwest Mounted Police and this was in recognition of its contribution to the peaceful settlement of Western Canada. In 1920, the Royal Northwest Mounted Police absorbed the Dominion police of Canada, which was headquartered in Ottawa and responsible for all federal policing. And as a result of that change in duties, the force subsequently changed its name to the Royal Canadian Mounted Police. The rest of they say is history. I'm sure I've skipped over many other high points. However, that is a brief rundown on the early history of the police force. However, we all know that what happens today is history tomorrow. So with that in mind, I'd like to give you a brief rundown on your police force, which is a contingent third detachment of the Royal Canadian Mounted Police here on Saltspring Island. We are a federal police force as the Royal Canadian Mounted Police name suggests. However, we are under contract with the provincial government of British Columbia supply provincial policing for this island. Our detachment area consists of all of Saltspring the surrounding waters, including Galliano Island, Reed Wallace, the Secretary islands, for those of you are very familiar with our coastline. All the way down and around primo star is our detachment area. We have six members stationed here presently, five constables and one sergeant our detachment is headed by Sergeant we have two marked police vehicles stationed here on Saltspring Island. You've probably noticed them around one is a suburban four by four truck. The other is a Dodge police car. We also have an 18 and a half foot, Double Eagle patrol vessel that we utilize for transportation to Galliano and we keep a marked police car a Chevy Blazer over on Galliano. We also maintain a what we call a patrol cabin on Galliano an area that our members can stay when we say over to do weekend patrols and things of that nature. For Okay, the other thing that I'd like to bring to your attention is a lot of people call call us police officers. The correct term actually is peace officer and as name and furs, that is my sole responsibility is to keep the peace and to prevent crime. Those are the sole responsibility of any peace officer. And as the name implies, it's a very thin blue line between anarchy and law in order. Now, a lot of people claim that things are getting out of hand in the village or things are getting out of hand in this big cities. I put it to you please think of what it would be without that thin blue line. pause to think about the people in our communities who would take advantage if they knew there were no police whatsoever. So we are here. And although we can't keep control of everything at all times, and as matter of fact, we do solicit the support of our community because without the support of active citizens in the community, there is no way it's all that six police officers can police this island and our detachment area. It's absolutely impossible. And there will always be those that break the laws some more seriously than others. Everything from traffic tickets right on through to breaking entries and I shouldn't say it but murders.

Unknown Speaker 18:39
Okay, generally, we handle approximately 2100 calls for service in a normal year. That's 2100 calls for service of those calls for service. Approximately 1/3 are criminal in nature, something a crime has occurred, and we are attending to respond to and investigate that crime. The other two thirds deal specifically with things such as provincial statutes, including the government Liquor Act, motor vehicle act, Wildlife Act. And sometimes we even get into barking dog complaints and chasing sheep around which is always a joke to our people. When we get a complaint dispatched from our Nanaimo dispatch center, about 20 sheep running across somebody's yard, all the other detachments who don't have sheep like Saltspring Island do, I guess, immediately come on with the cat calls on the radio go get them Shepherd. So we do put up with a little abuse because of the nature of Saltspring island, but our shoulders are broad and we can certainly take our cases are extremely varied as you can imagine, that we deal with and I've mentioned a couple but I can one tell you that everything from naked Prowlers on a full moon to expert cultivators of Canada's most lucrative cash crop Up the Devil we'd marijuana are commonplace here on the island. Three o'clock in the morning, one of our constables responded to do a, an individual start naked at a woman's window with the full moon shining on his entirety. Subsequently, he has spent some time receiving help. Most of the time, it's very difficult for us to find humor in the work that we do. And there are things that obviously are serious and, and certainly there are some things that I can't discuss with you, but I would like to throw a couple out for you. Unfortunately, a lot of the humor that we policemen find are at the cost of misfortune of someone else. And sometimes, the individual involved may not find it so funny, but the policeman who's seen it for the third time, does strike a funny bone in their body. One such incident comes to mind and I think back of constantly lace Mainwaring when he was arresting a person on a cross Canada warrant. Now, what that is, is the warrant for arrest and it's extended all the way across the country, as was aces, except that habit at the time, he did not wear his sidearm. For some reason he felt that Saltspring Island was peaceful enough that he did not require his sidearm when he was working contrary to all our regulations, I might add, however, that was aces personality, and certainly his decision. Ace arrived at the house arrest of the sauce back at which time the suspect stated. Would you mind if I went to the bathroom as being the gentleman he was he understands nature's call and he certainly did allow that luxury to the person. Approximately 10 or 15 minutes later, he became suspicious, entered the bathroom found the window open and as they say he got out through the bathroom window and the Chase was on. He's immediately returned to our office and got his sidearm. I've never seen a case get upset enough to put it aside Armand, but he certainly was that day. We didn't catch the guy that day. Matter of fact, he even had me come with him because he was sure that if he did have to use a sidearm, he wanted somebody else who could use one with him. However, we didn't catch him that day. approximately a month later, after several breaking entries locally. The suspect was apprehended in the foot chase across a field and barbed wire I might add after his card flipped upside down and the evidence of his nightly toil had spilled out across the highway. Those articles were approximately $2,000 and quarters rolling down the highway. But the individual was captured on the warrant and in regard to the breaking breaking entries. Another incident comes to mind and that is when our one of our young constables constable Brian Bragg, struck a patch of black ice. Now I don't know how many of you seen black ice and Saltspring island. But I'll tell you a little story about black ice and deer a little later with my own experience because we'll bracket some black ice. He did an expert job of parking his car backwards into a tree and the subsequent damage required an investigation gospel ace Mainwaring was once again called on to attend and investigate this accident he arrived investigated the accident, promptly left looking for a deer, which he found struck the deer at approximately 40 miles an hour through it 20 feet and remodeled the front of another police vehicle. So we now had the back of one police car smashed the front of the other ones met all within a few hours attesting to our abilities of driving. I could mention one other incident where a sergeant dressed in night attire hung a police car off a BC Ferries ramp while responding to an intruder alarm. But he'd be upset if I mentioned this. Or the thief that gave me the slip at mo it's making off with five ladies half slips and he hasn't been seen since. We haven't solved that one yet. There's some fellow out there who either gave away as gifts or he's still walking around wearing them. I don't know. He's out there. We haven't sold that one yet. As I suggested to you about black ice as a young constable arriving at Shawnigan lake just across the pond over here, fresh out of training and coming from the part of Ontario that during the winter months is certainly snow bound and I certainly understand driving in the snow and I understand icy conditions are black ice I was not convinced of at that time, I had not experienced that. I did not believe in it. Because every time an accident was reported to our detachment or me specifically, I found that it was always reported the next day when the person's vehicle was retrieved from the ditch and it was either black ice or near that they swerve to miss that put them in the ditch and never had any had to do with the fact that they've been drinking to excess or partying to excess and had lost control of their vehicle that way. I became quite cynical about this explanation of accidents. The one morning when responding to a motor vehicle accident with injuries, I found my police car going around the full arc of 360 degrees coming through arrest with my heart, my mouth saying I think that's black ice. Shortly after that, that still didn't relieve the problem of the deer jumped out and had to swerve to miss the deer. But shortly after that I became well acquainted with that. While patrolling in the middle Bay Area, I received a call from our Duncan dispatch center, suggesting that I travelled post haste to the top of the Malahat where the rock cut is because there had been a motor vehicle accident involving a deer all the way up the hill. I said to myself, deer, there is no deer. I don't believe in it. I'm just really getting myself worked up. I stepped out of the police car. And I looked at the gentleman involved and I said, Okay, where's the damn deer? At this point, he looked at me, he says, Here's me, Constable Come with me. He walked around to the front of his truck and camper and there was a three point buck with its rack stuck in his radiator, and the body underneath. I said, Okay, fine. After that, whenever somebody mentioned the deer, I don't argue with that it was a deer. I don't look for footprints or anything of that nature. I can't give you too much more, like I said on the history of Saltspring island with the amount of police there are some history that and I'm sure there are areas that could be researched, such as the first constable on Saltspring not a member of our force. And Mr. Sampson. Matter of fact, his ancestors still continue to do police work of some sort. In the person of leaving, it'd be one of his great grandchildren happens to be an exemplary policeman with the tremendous detachment. So his family still continues continues on in the law enforcement area to some extent. However, at this time, I'd like to open it up and I'd certainly like to field any of your questions if I can. Already many were there when they first started? I'm not certain, I would assume that we're probably looking at a one man situation because I can recall a fellow who was posted here proximately 1213 years ago, and her metaphoric going back 15 years ago, a fella by the name of Mike slew Chuck, I don't know if any of you recall him and it was constable Mike's new jack at the time. He's now a sergeant. At the time he was stationed here, back going back 15 years there was only two policemen here, plus the police boat contingent, because we did have a mounted police patrol boat here

Unknown Speaker 27:54
we have a two man detachment stationed on Pender island that is responsible for policing of Pender Maine, and let's see the other one over there. Saturnian That's correct. Yeah. There's two men there a corporal and a and a constable and we certainly help them out when need be. Yes, yes, they have a boat matter of fact identical to ours and 18 and a half W in Bordeaux. We fought a long and protracted battle here when we just lost our 25 foot police boat the Athabasca unfortunately we lost the battle and they've taken it away and given it to Queen Charlotte City. Which means he gets it back well at least it's a friend we know what will be taken care of. That's right. Because I used to be at a place last year called Hills number six

Unknown Speaker 29:04
think they had a fairly large one here with the RCMP as well because a fellow I know by the name of Tom McIntyre retired Staff Sergeant Air Force. He was stationed on that vessel here on Saltspring. Matter of fact, he married a woman from Saltspring and I can't recall Sheila's maiden name. You will walk up there. Yes, we have to cellblocks in our detachment office. Yep, the there are two bunks but I'm sure we can accommodate more if we stack them in vertical. We also have cells available to us in the bottom of the courthouse and they get provincial government building in the event that we run out of space to be locked down, certainly, certainly. That is not an extremely regular occurrence. I would say A right now we're for 1986. We're at Prisoner number 37. So we've actually booked 37 people into our cells during the course of this calendar year. Certainly, yes, we have a guard on duty at all times are checked every 20 minutes or more frequent, if necessary. Most of the times, our cells are considered only holding cells, no one serves a sentence that has been issued by a judge and, and usually, by law, it's never more than 24 hours, because within 24 hours, any person who's arrested has to be put before either a justice of the peace or a judge of the Provincial Court. The average day in our cell I would say is in the nature of five to eight hours, generally long enough for the drunk to dry out. Most of the arrests made are for being drunk in a public place. And the main purpose of that arrest is not a matter of fact, we don't even lay a charge on that that particular section, we simply put the person in so that they won't hurt themselves or others and let them dry out. Not drunks. No, no, our crowbar hotel doesn't serve drunks. Unfortunately. You're your clientele. We're happy to be here a couple of weeks ago, during the course of the current renovation. sell our exhibits now, our exhibit room was being torn apart, so we had to utilize our cellblock to lock them up and maintain the proper custody of the exhibits for court purposes. As a result, we ended up using the provincial government building as a cellblock area for and statue which pose some problems. But it did serve the purpose. We didn't manage to get through it successfully. And in fact, the renovation has caused an awful lot of inconvenience. There has been some very strange things happen. What is that building? I'm looking at it and I'm saying it's a 1950 style, not a police building. Okay, they built several of those brick fortresses throughout the province. Back in the late 50s Shawnigan Lake detachment office is exactly the same thing, except it's reversed. The high part is on the right side instead of on the left side looking at it from the road. And we've got several of those buildings throughout the province that were built in, like a sort of a building campaign that happened shortly after the force took over provincial police responsibilities. Matter of fact, when I worked in Alert Bay, I worked out of the old BC police building that was entirely constructed of wood on very dubious footings and the old stables out the back of the detachment office and the quarters upstairs. And every time there was a power outage which was quite often on Alert Bay. We added a generator downstairs that used to kick in automatically gasoline powered generator we call them stuttering Sam and the entire building shook our person ographers used to sit at your desk wondering what it was going to fall

Unknown Speaker 33:12
not here we have had in the past. Yes, there was one female constable served here. Approximately two or three years back I think she left. In addition to that, we have summer students that we employ, we call supernumerary special constables. And this year I had the pleasure of working with Ivan's daughter as a supernumerary Special Constable for the summer. And she has returned to the University of Victoria law school where she's completing her work towards her law degree. And she was a very effective peace officer this summer. Little short but very effective.

Unknown Speaker 33:54
Okay. What I'm going to do if there are no further questions, I have some booklets here that are available. I'll leave them here with you, Tony for anybody who would like to pick one up. It's entitled The force in the Yukon. It gives a bit of a rundown of the police force in the Yukon during that gold rush. And also is some orange book butts here and titled The origins of rock Naima. You're more than welcome. Thank you