OTD: Macdonald government proposes mounted police force for North-Western Territory

On today’s date in 1873, the government of former prime minister John A. Macdonald proposed an act to establish a mounted police force for the North-Western Territory, which was a major region of British North America until 1870.

Named for its location in relation to Rupert’s Land—the exclusive commercial domain of the Hudson’s Bay Company from 1670-1870—the North-Western Territory included present-day Yukon; the mainland Northwest Territories; northwestern mainland Nunavut; northwestern Saskatchewan; northern Alberta; and northern British Columbia.

In 1867, Canada was made up of only four eastern provinces; however, three years later, on July 15, 1870, the government acquired Rupert’s Land from the Hudson’s Bay Company, but opening the region to settlement required peaceful relations with Aboriginals as well as the suppression of the whisky trade. Army officials who surveyed the area recommended a force of 100-150 mounted riflemen to maintain law and order.


The act eventually passed on May 23, 1873. Macdonald originally unveiled the new force as the “North West Mounted Rifles”; however, there were concerns about antagonizing both the U.S. population to the south and Aboriginal population at home, so the force was renamed the North-West Mounted Police (NWMP) when it was officially established in 1873. It was a predecessor of today’s Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP).

According to Library and Archives Canada, the general duties of the NWMP included:

  • establish law and order;
  • collect customs dues;
  • enforce prohibition;
  • supervise the treaties between First Nations and the federal government;
  • assist in the settlement process;
  • ensure the welfare of immigrants; and
  • fight prairie fires, disease and destitution.

The coin was issued as part of the Mint’s 1998 Proof double dollar set.


Twenty years ago, the Royal Canadian Mint featured the RCMP on its 1998 Proof double dollar set—the only set with both a commemorative silver dollar and the aureate dollar depicting the common loon. The set also includes 50-, 25-, 10-, five- and one-cent coins as well as a toonie.

The Proof silver dollar, designed by Adeline Halvorson, commemorates the 125th anniversary of the founding of the NWMP, a member of which is featured on the coin’s reverse. The obverse bears the effigy of Queen Elizabeth II by artist Dora de Pedery-Hunt.

The silver dollar is composed of 92.5 per cent silver and 7.5 per cent copper; has a weight of 25.18 grams; a diameter of 36.07 mm; reeded edges; and a mintage of 130,795 pieces.

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