The Royal Canadian Mounted Police was formed as the North-West Mounted Police in 1873. Its original purpose was to bring law to the Northwest Territories, which was largely lawless and separate from the rest of newly-confederated Canada. Despite rejecting earlier proposed names for their close association with the military, the NWMP was modeled after the Royal Irish Constabulary and the British Army, acquiring the red uniforms for which they would later be famous. In 1874 just over 300 men departed for the region that would eventually become Alberta, aiming for the infamous Fort Whoop-Up, which housed a roaring whiskey trade. When this fort was found to be empty, the NWMP moved on a few miles and established a new fort, Fort MacLeod, on an island in the Oldman River. During their early years they remained involved in controlling the whiskey trade, and enforcing the treaty agreements made with First Nations groups in the region. They developed a close and respectful relationship with the First Nations during this time. In the mid-1880s they were involved in putting down Louis Riel's North-West Rebellion.
By the mid-1890s the Klondike Gold Rush was beginning, and the NWMP scrambled to keep law and assert Canadian sovereignty in the furthest reaches of the Yukon. They established customs tariffs, the "ton of goods" law, Blue Tickets and other laws that protected the gold miners and the people of the Yukon. They also enforced criminal law, preventing gambling and prostitution among other social ills. They were so well-known and well-respected by the miners who flooded into the Yukon that they became universally known and respected.
By 1903 the NWMP's remit had extended to the Arctic Coast, and the following year it gained the prefix "Royal". By 1912 it had absorbed Alberta, Saskatchewan and Manitoba. Between 1914 and 1918 the RNWMP became involved in guarding Canadian borders and protecting national security. In 1917 their remit was briefly shrunk to federal policing of Alberta, Saskatchewan and Manitoba, but by 1918 had been re-extended to cover British Columbia along with the other three. The Winnipeg General Strike of 1919 saw the first clash between RNWMP and strikers. RNWMP officers fired on the crowd of protestors, killing two. In 1920, on the brink of dissolution, the RNWMP was merged with the Dominion Police, the police force of the Eastern Provinces, and was renamed as the Royal Canadian Mounted Police.
After this merger, the RCMP assumed duties as the federal police force with jurisdiction over the entire country, and was also involved in counterintelligence and national security. As part of these new duties, the RCMP was involved in the infiltration of dissident political groups, such as the Communist Party of Canada. They became involved in immigration and drug enforcement matters, deporting suspected radical political dissidents and those with suspected ties to opium production, especially those of Ukrainian and Chinese descent. They were also involved in aiding other federal agencies, such as in the enforcement of the controversial residential schooling system. In 1932 the Preventive Service, National Revenue was absorbed into the RCMP, forming the RCMP Marine, allowing for the patrol of the Canadian Arctic. Into the mid-1930s clashes between protestors and the RCMP began again in earnest, when the On-to-Ottawa Trek was suppressed by the incitation of the Regina Riot. Through to the 1940s they remained heavily involved in strikebreaking, employing special constables. In 1939 the counterintelligence wing of the RCMP was moved from the Criminal Investigation Department to the RCMP Security Service.
In 1949, when Newfoundland became the final province to enter Confederation, the RCMP was amalgamated with the Newfoundland Rangers. In the 1970s questions were raised about the operations and possible abuses of the RCMP, which had included commission of such crimes as the stealing of documents from the Parti Quebecois, forging documents, illegal break-ins and other abuses of power. This culminated in the Commission of Inquiry into Certain Activities of the RCMP, also known as the McDonald Commission, begun in 1977 and finished in 1981. This resulted in the separation of the RCMP from duties related to national security, which were passed to the newly-created Canadian Security Intelligence Service in 1984. Further duties were separated from the RCMP a few years later in 1993, when the Special Emergency Response Team was moved under the control of the Canadian Forces.
In 1994 they became involved in the training of the Haitian National Police, an initiative that later spread to Iraq and other regions where Canada was involved in peace-keeping missions. In 1997 they were involved in the apprehension and eventual extradition to the United States of a man suspected of involvement in the Khobar Tower bombing. In 2005 four officers were killed by James Roszko, who later killed himself, in what would become known as the Mayerthorpe incident, the highest loss of life suffered in a single day by the RCMP in over 100 years. In 2005 an RCMP constable, Paul Koester, shot and killed Ian Bush, who was alone in an interrogation room with Koester and in police custody at the time of his death. The incident resulted in an extensive investigation which ultimately cleared Koester of any wrongdoing in the shooting. In 2006 two RCMP officers were killed by Conrad Dagenais in what would later be called the Spiritwood incident. Also in 2006 the RCMP became involved in the "Shiprider" initiative along with the US Coast Guard, in which 12 RCMP officers rode in US vessels while 16 Coast Guard officers rode on RCMP ships, to aid in cross-border policing efforts. In October of 2007 Polish immigrant Robert Dziekanski was Tasered twice by RCMP officers in Vancouver International Airport, which resulted in his death. This led to immense public backlash and a continued public disapproval for the use of Tasers by RCMP officers.
Currently, the RCMP is headquartered in Ottawa, Ontario. It is composed of 14 Regional divisions, designated between A and V Divisions. Each division covers a single province or territory, while A Division is the National Capital Division, covering Ottawa, Ontario and Gatineau, Quebec. There is also a training region, Depot Division, which is located in Regina, Saskatchewan. Along with this training organization, it operates the Canadian Police College, the Canadian Police Information Centre and the Forensic Laboratory Service. There are 35 RCMP Liaison Officers located in 25 countries, who facilitate RCMP investigations abroad and the sharing of information with various law enforcement agencies. Currently there are 29,292 people employed by the RCMP.
The RCMP is the federal policing body of Canada, meaning that it is involved in the investigation of federal offenses. While the two largest provinces, Ontario and Quebec are able to maintain their own provincial police forces (the Ontario Provincial Police and the Sûreté du Québec respectively), and part of Newfoundland is under the jurisdiction of the Royal Newfoundland Constabulary, the other provinces contract the RCMP to act as a provincial police force. It is also the territorial police force for all three territories. Several municipalities also contract the RCMP to act as a municipal police force.
They are referred to in French as the Gendarmerie royale du Canada, and colloquially as the Mounties. RCMP officers refer to themselves internally as The Force. Their motto is "Maintiens le Droit", meaning "Maintain the Right" in English. They are universally recognized for their Red Serge dress uniforms and Stetson hats.