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Useful Notes / The Mounties

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My uncle shot a cop once, but he never thought of having him mounted.

Canadian law enforcement is usually stereotyped as the Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP), nicknamed The Mounties. In fictional depictions of Canada, they still wear their nineteenth-century scarlet tunic and big Stetson hat with riding boots and a leather holster. In actuality, that's their dress uniform for special occasions and there are more than Mounties in Canada to enforce the second-largest land area in the world (there are provincial and municipal police forces). But those, unless the creators are local, or are showing their knowledge of Canadian policing, aren't very often seen in media. Let's run down the list, shall we?

Federal forces

Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP), (nicknamed The Mounties): In French  The federal and largest police force of Canada and one of the most famous police forces in the world. It was formed by the merger of the Royal North Western Mounted Police and Dominion Police on December 1, 1920. Under Canada's Constitution, police services fall under the responsibility of provinces and territories. As such, the RCMP's primary responsibility is enforcing federal criminal law. Members of the RCMP have jurisdiction as a peace officer in all provinces and territories of Canada.

The North Western Mounted Police (the Royal was added in 1904) was famous in its own right for its role in helping bring order to northwestern Canada in the 19th century, much as sheriffs did in the American West. Initially, the Mounties did make a good first impression with the various Native American nations, such as dealing with the notorious whiskey traders ravaging the population, although further activities soured that relationship. The old (R)NWMP rode horses; the modern day "Mounties" only ride horses at ceremonial occasions, so the name is an Artifact Title.

Provincial governments can decide whether to contract the RCMP to police rural areas. Most do, with the exceptions of Ontario and Quebec, where the Mounties' role is limited to mostly protecting federal propertynote .

Their iconic dress uniform is known as the 'Red Serge' - a Stetson up top, a scarlet tunic, midnight blue (no, not black) breeches with bulges above the knee, a yellow stripe down the sides, and riding boots, spurs completely optional. This is worn at parades but rarely on duty; expect almost all works that feature Mounties to neglect this, either accidentally or purposefully.note 

The 'everyday uniform' consists of a grey shirt, identical trousers and a peaked cap. They also have international jurisdiction and have conducted police operations in places like Afghanistan and Haiti.

Befitting their mounted origins, and somewhat unusually for a police force, they hold the ceremonial military status as a regiment of dragoons due to many members serving overseas in wartime. This means the RCMP is entitled to carry battle honours on parade. RCMP members have also mounted the Life Guard in London on two occasions.

The force's reputation used to be sterling up until the 1970s, but its various actions and abuses came under scrutiny that lead to a Royal Commission called the Royal Commission of Inquiry into Certain Activities of the RCMP, aka The McDonald Commission in which lead to permanent bruising of its reputation with evidence of illegal surveillance of political dissent, forging documents and even burning down a private citizen's barn. Eventually, the commission's report lead to the RCMP being stripped of its counter-intelligence duties which were transferred to the newly formed Canadian Security Intelligence Service (CSIS).

The RCMP has a somewhat poor reputation in India due to their mishandling of the investigation into the 1985 bombing of Air India Flight 182 “Kanishka” from Toronto to New Delhi. The attack was perpetrated by Sikh separatists who had emigrated to Canada to avoid prosecution by Indian authorities. Many victims of the bombing were Canadian citizens of Indian origin, who were not even acknowledged as Canadian by the government, and the RCMP’s investigation into the Sikh community in BC yielded almost no prosecutions of the real culprits. This combined with revelations that the RCMP had audio recordings of the conspirators planning the attack, but failed to prevent the bombing note , was a heavy blow to the Mounties’ reputation in India.

In contemporary times, particularly after the murder of George Floyd in the US, there have been complaints that RCMP constables have committed serious violent abuses of power of their own, particularly against First Nations people. In fact, First Nations activists have complained that that Mounties are still doing what they see as the organization's original purpose: to oppress them and keep them subjugated off their own land for the Colonizers' economic purposes. The fact that the RCMP Commissioner struggled to articulate a denial about systemic racism running through the force proved another embarrassment when Prime Minister Justin Trudeau openly contradicted her and forced her to retract her denial. This is not including earlier allegations of sexual harassment and bullying of female members of the force, resulting in even more bad press and difficulties in recruitment.

Canada Border Services Agency (CBSA): In French  Responsible for patrolling the country's borders and enforcing immigration and customs policies.

Provincial forces

Ontario Provincial Police (OPP): Obviously, has national and municipal enforcement of law in the province of Ontario. Their main job is to police Ontario's rural areas, which the Mounties would do in other provinces. Most cities like Toronto have a municipal police force. The OPP's role in those areas is thus limited. Formed in 1909, a major policing reshuffle gave the OPP authority over the entire province, relieving the RCMP of most of their duties in Ontario.

While they do share some of the attributes of the RCMP, including ranks and headgear (the latter of which was changed in 2008), they are very different in some regards, leading to their lack of portrayal in fictional works. However, they still did get recognition, notably with Paul McCartney of The Beatles wearing an OPP patch on his uniform on the cover art of the Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band album. Notably, the OPP and the Sûreté du Québec (see below) were featured in the film Bon Cop, Bad Cop.

Sûreté du Québec (SQ): (there is no official English name—it translates to "safety/security of Québec"). Formed in 1870, they have authority over the entire Francophone province of Quebec, with moderate to major differences with both the RCMP and OPP. Like the OPP, major policing reshuffles in 1929-1930 within the force changed the structure of the force as a whole, and gave the force, then known as the Police provinciale du Québec, a new name: Sûreté provinciale du Québec, later renamed to what it is today.

Royal Newfoundland Constabulary: Newfoundland and Labrador is much smaller than Ontario and Quebec but it is the only other province to have a provincial police force. Unlike the OPP and Sûreté, it is responsible for policing the urban areas of Newfoundland, while the Mounties police the countryside. It has a long history that dates back to 1729 and is the oldest police force of any kind in North America.

Most large cities have an independent police force. Urban police forces include:

  • Toronto Police Service: The third-largest police service in Canada. Founded in 1834, it is the oldest municipal police service in the whole of North America.
  • Service de police de la Ville de Montréal:note  The police force for Canada's second largest city. Established in 1843. Standard cops carry Glock 19s.
    • The Groupe Tactique d'Intervention note  meanwhile packs Remington 870s, HK MP5s and FN P90s. In addition to standard SWAT duties (dealing with mass shooters, hostage takers, barricaded suspects, high-risk warrants, etc...) GTI is also responsible for Bomb Disposal and diving in waterways to find dead bodies, handguns tossed off bridges, and other things of interest.
  • Vancouver Police Department
  • Calgary Police Service
  • Ottawa Police Service
  • Edmonton Police Service
  • Winnipeg Police Service


Police ranks in Canada tend to avoid military titles other than Sergeant, following a similar practice used by British Coppers. Nearly all have similar ranks to the Mounties though most omit some. Ranks in the RCMP are, from lowest to highest:
  • Constable
  • Corporal
  • Sergeant
  • Staff Sergeant
  • Inspector
  • Superintendent
  • Chief Superintendent
  • Assistant Commissioner
  • Deputy Commissioner
  • Commissioner

The lowest ranks have detective counterparts; thus the lower detective rank is Detective Constable.

Most local forces are led by a Chief. A few forces give their chief officer a different name; it is commissioner in both the RCMP and OPP. Quebec's forces have slightly different ranks.

In fiction

In the media, Canadian police tend to be portrayed as being polite and friendly, especially when contrasted with their American counterparts. They also have a reputation for being effective, with the old saying that "The Mountie Always Gets His Man". The Mounties are portrayed more than any other Canadian police force, even though they have little role in Canada's largest cities and provinces. They're a staple of the Canadian Western genre, however.

For instance there is Benton Fraser in Due South, who is essentially Dudley Do-Right's in costume, often wearing the Red Serge uniform, and manners with the near-superhuman competence of James Bond. However, the long-running Canadian series, The Beachcombers, has the regular character, Constable John Constable, who is a somewhat more realistic Mountie who wears the actual RCMP regular duty uniform. The Toronto Police service’s SWAT Team is the focus of the TV show Flashpoint

You may have noticed that the RCMP is called a "gendarmerie" in French. Traditionally, a gendarmerie is a military force assigned police duties within a civilian population. The name is an artifact of the early days of the North Western Mounted Police, which had military-like duties, although separated from the Canadian Army. Even when the organization became all civilian, the name stuck.


  • The Arrogant Worms: Subverted in "The Mountie Song", from the perspective of a Mountie who wants to do police work, but is stuck being The Theme Park Version dealing with idiot tourists.
    I wanna enforce the law,
    I wanna wear normal clothes,
    I don't wanna smile for some diplomat's home videos.
    I'm good at workin' real hard,
    I should've joined the Coast Guard.
    Oh no the RCMP,
    Is not the life for me.
  • The Bugs Bunny short Fresh Hare has Elmer Fudd as a fat Mountie trying to catch a wanted Bugs in a snowy forest.
  • In Disney Magic Kingdoms, during the Turning Red Event, Miriam mentions that she remembers doing a unit on the Mounties in history class the previous year.
  • In the 1985 film Hold-up, a Bank Robbery happens in Montreal and the leader of the gang outsmarts the police at every turn. Later, when the gang tries to flee, they bump into mounted police in a forest.
  • Lucky Luke:
    • In "Daltons in the Blizzard", Luke cooperates with a standard-issue Mountie who manages to instantly stop a Bar Brawl by telling the fighters to knock it off, go to the nearest station and turn themselves in. When one protests that the station is three days away, the Mountie gives them a Death Glare and they immediately run off. The Daltons are stupefied at the idea of a single lawman covering such a huge territory and yet being respected.
    • A more antagonistic version appears in "The Klondike", where he behaves like a Meddlesome Patrolman. He ends up confiscating Jolly Jumper who gets rid of him by abandoning him somewhere in Antarctica.
  • The Silver Chief series of children's books by Jack O'Brien starred wolf-dog Silver Chief and his master Sergeant Jim Thorne of the RCMP. Thorne was assigned to patrol part of the Northwest Territories, a huge expanse of basically wild country, and his duties consisted mainly of chasing murderers and other major criminals.