The Force in the North

Charles Constantine

After a military career, Charles Constantine became deputy sheriff for Manitoba in 1885 when the North West rebellion broke out.  He later became captain of the Winnipeg Light Infantry Rifles. With police and military experience, Constantine was a natural fit for the North West Mounted Police.  In 1894, NWMP Commissioner Lawrence William Herchmer asked him to undertake a survey of the Yukon.

The Canadian government was worried about the influx of American miners in the North, the liquor trade there and its impact on the native people, and law and order in general. Constantine spent only a few weeks in the North.  While he was there he asserted Canadian sovereignty by enforcing customs regulations. In his report, he recommended that some forty officers be dispatched to the Yukon.

After much procrastinating, federal authorities decided in 1895 to send a contingent of twenty to serve under Superintendent Constantine. This small force arrived at Forty Mile, on the Yukon River, in July and immediately began building Fort Constantine, the first NWMP post in the territory. More men arrived in 1897 and were placed throughout the Yukon valley when the Gold Rush reached its peak in 1898, by which time Constantine had been replaced by Superintendent Sam Steele.

Constantine's Northern Service was not over, however. In 1902, he established detachments at Fort McPherson, Northwest Territories and Herschel Island, Yukon. He arrived in Fort McPherson in July with five other members including Francis Joseph Fitzgerald.  Constantine rented a building to serve as their quarters, instructed Fitzgerald to proceed to Herschel Island, and headed for home.  The intent was that these posts would be temporary operations where Americans could be made to pay customs duties. But, with the crossing North of the Arctic Circle, a whole new era of the NWMP was about to begin.

In 1905, Constantine led an attempt to build a land route from Edmonton to Whitehorse via Teslin, Yukon. This project was ill-conceived and never finished. 

Constantine died in California in 1912 after a failed operation.