The Force in the North

Protecting The Border

The story of the North-West Mounted Police begins in 1894, when Inspector Charles Constantine was sent to the Yukon. The Canadian government was concerned about the liquor trade and its impact on local First Nations, as well as general law and order. Most significantly, they were concerned about the prevalence of US citizens in Canadian territory at a time when the border was new and in many areas still disputed.

Constantine remained less than four weeks in the north, but while there he asserted Canadian sovereignty by enforcing customs regulations. Constantine assessed the situation and advised:

The Force sent in…should be of not less than two years service and from twenty-two to thirty-two years of age, of large and powerful build, - men who do not drink. It should be remembered that they are alone in the country … shut out from the outer world for eight months of the year.

After much procrastination, the federal authorities decided in 1895 to send a contingent of 20 under Constantine's command. The NWMP were sent the Yukon to establish a presence for Canadian sovereignty and to enforce the border. Starting off in Regina, Saskatchewan, the Yukon’s first Mounties reached Forty Mile, close to the Alaskan border, in July 1895. It was here that they established their first post, Fort Constantine. For the first year, the Mounties spent most of their time logging, hauling and building their new detachment. They endured mosquitoes, black flies, isolation, a monotonous diet and extreme cold. Crimes however, were rare.

The Mounties faced the first real test of their authority in 1896, when the miners meeting in Glacier Creek ordered the sale of claims to cover wages owed. The NWMP refused to register this illegal transaction. Inspector Strickland marched 12 armed men 48 km from Fort Constantine to Glacier Creek, removed the illegal occupants and returned the claims to the rightful owners.

The Mounties had firmly established their control in the Klondike. Unbeknownst to them, however, their greatest challenge was just about to begin.