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Riding to the Rescue

Riding to the Rescue: The Transformation of the RCMP in Alberta and Saskatchewan, 1914-1939

Steve Hewitt
Copyright Date: 2006
Pages: 240
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  • Book Info
    Riding to the Rescue
    Book Description:

    Riding to the Rescueis a provocative and incisive look behind one of Canada's most enduring icons at the cusp of the modern era.

    eISBN: 978-1-4426-2767-3
    Subjects: History, Law

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
  3. List of Tables
    (pp. ix-x)
  4. Acknowledgments
    (pp. xi-xii)
  5. Preface
    (pp. xiii-2)
  6. 1 Introduction: Policing History
    (pp. 3-11)

    Historical eras are like chapters in a book; they always have an end and a beginning. For the Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP), an era initiated with the advent of war in 1914 began to spiral to a conclusion on the Montreal night of 26 July 1974, when a bomb that RCMP Constable Robert Samson was attempting to plant blew off the tips of four of his fingers. He initially claimed to have discovered the package, whereupon it had exploded. In reality, the Mountie, a member of the force’s intelligence branch, most commonly known as the Security Service, had been...

  7. 2 The Architect, the Era, and the State
    (pp. 12-27)

    By October 1918, A.B. Perry, commissioner of the Royal North-West Mounted Police (RNWMP), product of a small-town Ontario United Empire Loyalist background, and a graduate of Royal Military College, was nearing the end of his calling. In a career that stretched back into the nineteenth century, the architect of the modern Mounted Police had first-hand experience of important events in his force’s history. Having fought against the Métis in the 1885 Northwest Rebellion, he had slowly worked his way up through the ranks, achieving his final and highest position on 1 August 1900.¹

    Now in October 1918, with the bloodiest...

  8. 3 Men in Scarlet
    (pp. 28-44)

    Fifteen-year-old Vernon Kemp received a rough ride from a barracks mate after he joined the Mounted Police in Prince Albert in 1910. After all, what was an Englishman doing as a member of the ultimate Canadian symbol? Far from being unrepresentative, in reality, Kemp exemplified the dominant characteristics of the force in this period: he was an English-born male.

    Commissioner Perry’s memos of late 1918 dealt with the force’s future in a broad sense. However, who really were the members of the Mounted Police that Perry’s recommendations would affect? How did these ordinary men drawn from society as constructed at...

  9. 4 Dealing with Undesirables
    (pp. 45-74)

    By the end of the First World War, many Canadians, including members of the Mounted Police, believed that the nation was desperately in need of an exorcism. Who were the demons that required expulsion? Many of them resembled the ‘men in sheepskin coats’ previously held up as ideal citizens for Canada. Immigrants from central and eastern Europe had become the ‘other,’ representing the opposite of everything the Mounted Police and Anglo-Canadian society stood for in relation to ethnicity and masculinity.¹ The imagined nature of this Canada deliberately excluded certain groups on the grounds that they undermined the Anglo-Celtic character of...

  10. 5 Men in Secret
    (pp. 75-103)

    It was a time of disorder, of radicalism, and of revolution. The Romanov dynasty had been toppled and eventually eradicated with bullets in Russia. Germany seemed poised to fall beneath the wheels of the Red machine. South of the 49th parallel, the United States had been experiencing industrial and political turmoil. The government of Prime Minister Robert Borden was, not surprisingly, frightened. The prime minister, in France to attend the 1919 Paris Peace Conference, received a frantic telegram from his cabinet requesting that a British cruiser be sent to Vancouver harbour as a tool of intimidation for those contemplating revolution...

  11. 6 Policing Workers
    (pp. 104-131)

    Agitators like James Bryson worried the Canadian state. His work among the unemployed in southern Alberta in the 1930s brought him to the attention of an RCMP informant. According to the latter, Bryson had ‘dull and fishy looking’ eyes but it was his skill in what he did that represented the real menace: he ‘will cause [a] riot, if allowed to carry on as he has a most insidious way of creating trouble’ warned the informant.¹ Individuals like Bryson seemed to threaten the Anglo-Canadian societal status quo through their choice of who they worked among: members of the working class...

  12. Illustrations
    (pp. None)
  13. 7 Conclusion: 1914–1939, Transformation Complete
    (pp. 132-142)

    As these words of Commissioner S.T. Wood reflected, 10 September 1939 represented an important day for both Canadians and the Royal Canadian Mounted Police: their government had just put them at war with Nazi Germany. For Mounted Policemen, hostilities meant work to do. Under the Defence of Canada Regulations, which the force had helped to draft, a large number of Canadians had suddenly become enemies of the state.² The task of rounding up these legislated enemies would fall to the men in scarlet, and they performed the task with relish. Pat Lenihan remembered the zeal well. A long-time communist and...

  14. Notes
    (pp. 143-180)
  15. Bibliography
    (pp. 181-196)
  16. Illustration Credits
    (pp. 197-198)
  17. Index
    (pp. 199-206)
  18. Back Matter
    (pp. 207-208)