Dominion Police

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Dominion Police Force
Agency overview
Formed 22 May, 1868
Dissolved 1 February, 1920
Superseding agency Royal Canadian Mounted Police
Jurisdictional structure
Operations jurisdiction Canada

The Dominion Police Force was the federal police force of Canada between 1868 and 1920, and was one of the predecessors of the Royal Canadian Mounted Police. It was the first federal police force in Canada, formed the year following the Canadian Confederation to enforce federal laws and perform policing duties for the Federal Government of Canada. On 1 February 1920, the Dominion Police was merged with the North-West Mounted Police to form the Royal Canadian Mounted Police as the new federal police force of Canada.


The Dominion Police Force was created on 22 May, 1868, in response to the assassination of Thomas D'Arcy McGee, a prominent Irish-Canadian politician and MP for Montreal West, in Ottawa on 7 April.[1] McGee was killed by elements of the Fenian Brotherhood, a powerful Irish nationalist organisation based in the United States, in the new federal capital of Canada less than a year after the country was formed by the Confederation. The Canadian authorities were worried about the power of the Fenian Brotherhood, which had already launched three major raids into Canada in 1866 before McGee's death, and that existing law enforcement agencies were not capable of protecting state security. The Dominion Police was formed as the first federal police force with jurisdiction over the entirety of Canada, built from the Western Frontier Constabulary which had been in existence since 1864.[2] Its primary purpose was as the police force for protecting buildings of the Federal Government of Canada, including the Parliament Buildings on Parliament Hill[3], the naval yards at Halifax and Esquimalt, providing bodyguards for government leaders, carrying out secret service work arising from the activities of the Fenian raids, and enforcing certain federal laws such as those relating to counterfeiting and human trafficking.[4][5] The Dominion Police also had responsibility for keeping the peace for specified railways and canals that were under construction when the Public Works Peace Preservation Act, 1869 was brought into force.[6] They gradually also acquired responsibilities for compiling fingerprint and criminal records, and administering a parole service. [2][7]

In Ontario, Commissioners of the Dominion Police were vested with the same powers as police magistrates and justices of the peace in the province, and constables had the same status as those appointed under provincial law.[8] The Dominion Police informally handled some provincial-level policing duties in rural Ontario until the creation of the Ontario Provincial Police in 1909.

The Dominion Police, although the federal police of Canada, was mainly active in the Eastern Canada region, while the Royal Northwest Mounted Police handled the expansive and sparsely populated Northwest Territories of Western Canada. In May 1918, the 969-member Dominion Police was reassigned under the Department of Militia and Defence and became a civilian wing of the Canadian Military Police Corps (CMPC).[9] In the early 1900s, the Royal Northwest Mounted Police had declined as the Northwest Territories was divided into new provinces and territories, and due to the general unpopularity of the force for conduct during industrial disputes such as the Winnipeg General Strike. On 1 February 1920, the civilian members of the CMPC, including the Dominion Police, were merged with the Royal Northwest Mounted Police to form the Royal Canadian Mounted Police as the new federal police force of Canada, and the CMPC was disbanded on 1 December 1920.[9]


The Dominion Police consisted of Commissioners and constables appointed for that purpose, and its authority extended over the provinces and all parts of the territories not patrolled by the RNWMP. The organization was decentralized, with many Commissioners being appointed with either provincial or national responsibility, and it had two national co-commissioners until 1876. The national Commissioner also acted as the Commissioner of the Montreal Water Police, which reported separately to the Minister of the Marine and Fisheries. Although formed under different statutory authority,[10] its constables were appointed as police officers under the 1868 Act.[11]

The commissioners that had responsibility for all of Canada were:

From 1913, Sherwood was Chief Commissioner, to whom all other Commissioners reported.

Further reading[edit]


  1. ^ An Act respecting Police of Canada, S.C. 1868, c. 73 as amended by An Act to amend "An Act respecting Police of Canada", S.C. 1879, c. 37
  2. ^ a b c Ross & May 1988, p. 17.
  3. ^ now protected by House of Commons and Senate Security Service Constables and Scanner operators
  4. ^ Williams 1998, pp. 115–116.
  5. ^ as described in Attorney General of Alberta et al. v. Putnam et al. 1981 CanLII 206 at p. 293, [1981] 2 SCR 267 (28 May 1981)
  6. ^ An Act for the better preservation of the Peace in the vicinity of Public Works, S.C. 1869, c. 24
  7. ^ Williams 1998, p. 116.
  8. ^ An Act respecting Commissioners of Police, S.O. 1870-71, c. 16
  9. ^ a b "Canadian Army Military Police, 1914-1920". Canadian Military Police Virtual Museum. 
  10. ^ An Act respecting Harbor Police, S.C. 1868, c. 62
  11. ^ "Report of Commissioner of Montreal Water Police". Sessional Papers of the Parliament of the Dominion of Canada, Volume 4, Issue 3. 1871. pp. 107–110. 
  12. ^ Previously head of the Western Frontier Constabulary. In 1871-1873, he was the Commissioner of Police for Manitoba.
  13. ^ Ste. Croix, Lorne (1982). "Coursol, Charles-Joseph". In Halpenny, Francess G. Dictionary of Canadian Biography. XI (1881–1890) (online ed.). University of Toronto Press. 

External links[edit]