William Higgitt

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William Higgitt
Higgitt and Queen Elizabeth II.jpg
Higgitt and Queen Elizabeth II at the RCMP Centennial Celebrations, Regina, 1973
President of INTERPOL
In office
Preceded byPaul Dickopf
Succeeded byCarl Persson
Commissioner of the Royal Canadian Mounted Police
In office
October 1, 1969 – December 28, 1973
Preceded byMalcolm Lindsay
Succeeded byMaurice Nadon
Personal details
BornNovember 10, 1917
Anerley, Saskatchewan, Canada
DiedApril 2, 1989(1989-04-02) (aged 71)
Ottawa, Ontario, Canada

William Leonard Higgitt (10 November 1917 – 2 April 1989) was the 15th Commissioner of the Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP) from 1969 to 1973 and President of the International Criminal Police Organization (INTERPOL) from 1972 to 1976.[1]

Early life[edit]

Higgitt was born in Anerley, Saskatchewan on November 10, 1917. His father Percy Higgitt gave up his nearby homestead when Leonard was four to be an Imperial Oil agent and grain buyer for the Canadian Consolidated Grain Company; later taking over the local store and post office which he operated for over forty years, and ultimately spending many hours in public service to the community in various capacities covering a period of forty-six years.[2]


After graduating from high school, in September 1937 Higgitt joined the RCMP at Regina. Here he completed recruit training and became a stenographer for "F" Division, Regina. He remained in Regina until 1940 when he was posted to Ottawa, Ontario for special war duties and to serve in the Intelligence Branch. At the outbreak of WWII Higgitt became Government advisor to the Commons Judicial Committee on Internment Operations. These operations led to the removal of many hundreds of persons of German and Japanese descent to detention camps in Canada's hinterlands.

In 1945, he was involved in the investigation of Igor Gouzenko, a cipher clerk for the Soviet Embassy to Canada whom defected on September 5, 1945 with 109 documents on Soviet espionage activities in the West.

In 1952, Higgitt became Inspector and Personnel Officer in Ontario. He moved to western Quebec two years later to serve as Inspector at "C" Division, then was transferred to Montreal to take charge of the Subdivision and supervise the RCMP's investigation and enforcement of the Canada Customs Act. In 1955 he graduated from the Canadian Police College. He was posted to the Ottawa Headquarters in 1957 to take on increasingly heavy responsibilities in what is now the Security Service. Three years later he moved to London, England, where he was appointed Liaison Officer for the United Kingdom and Western Europe in the Canadian Delegation to the General Assemblies of INTERPOL. He remained at this post for three years, travelling extensively and working closely with a number of police organizations. He returned to Canada in 1963 as a Superintendent where he resumed his work in the Security Service in Ottawa. In 1967, Higgitt became the head of that branch and became Director of Security and Intelligence for the whole of Canada with the rank of Assistant Commissioner. Two years later, he was promoted to Deputy Commissioner and became Director of Operations for all Criminal and Security Service matters throughout Canada. On October 1, 1969 he was appointed Commissioner by Prime Minister Pierre Elliot Trudeau over several of his senior officers. He was also unanimously elected a Vice-President of INTERPOL.[3]

RCMP Commissioner[edit]

Higgitt's term as Commissioner came at the height of the Cold War, and one of the first questions posed to Higgitt was whether he thought a Chinese Communist Embassy in Ottawa would pose a new security problem for the federal police. Higgitt quickly answered that a Chinese Communist presence in Canada would indeed require heightened police vigilance; an answer which was circulated throughout Canadian media and an answer which displeased Trudeau, who had pressed hard for Canada-China negotiations. In May 1971, after Canada and China had agreed to exchange ambassadors, Higgitt was asked, while testifying before the Commons Judicial Committee, if he maintained his 1969 position on China. To this Higgitt repeated that in 1969 "The obvious answer had to be yes".[4]

During his term in office, the RCMP Guidon was presented to the Force by Queen Elizabeth II, the first videofile system for storing and retrieving fingerprints was obtained, the Canadian Police Information Center (CPIC) with nationwide computer services was opened, and the creation of the Canadian Bomb Data Center was authorized. Higgitt directed operations during the FLQ Crisis in Quebec in 1970 and was responsible for organizing the RCMP Centennial Celebrations in 1973.

He was appointed Commander of the Order of the Hospital of St. John of Jerusalem (Order of St. John). He was also awarded the Canadian Centennial Medal, the RCMP Long Service Medal, and was elected President of Interpol in 1972, the first elected president from outside Europe.


Commissioner Higgitt retired from the RCMP on December 28, 1973; going on to serve for several years as president of Canada's Safety Council.</ref> He died in Ottawa on April 2, 1989 and was buried in the RCMP cemetery in Regina, Saskatchewan.


External links[edit]

Police appointments
Preceded by
Malcolm Lindsay
Commissioner of the Royal Canadian Mounted Police
Succeeded by
Maurice Nadon