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Mountie reports from a century ago reflect different attitudes

Ron Walter takes a look at RCMP history
Trading Thoughts by Ron Walter

Murder on the Prairies and the Territories wasn’t uncommon in the early 1900s.

The murder rate was one a week in the provinces of Alberta, Saskatchewan, new Manitoba, the Yukon and the Northwest Territories.

Fifty-four murders were reported in 1913 in the annual report to Parliament by the Royal Northwest Mounted Police.

Population was just over 1.4 million. In 2022, Saskatchewan, with a population of 1.2 million had 70 murders.

Forty-four murders were prosecuted in 1913.

Most were in neighbouring Alberta where two men were convicted of murdering Mounties in different locations.    

The report showed causes of murder: 12 from drunkenness and brawling; five for personal gain; three infanticides; and the rest for jealousy, lust or revenge.

In this area, one murder was of a “wealthy farmer’’ from Grand Coulee near Regina.

A wife at Govan, north of Moose Jaw, murdered her drunken husband with a hatchet when he came home drunk one night and was abusive.

An Italian, only in Canada for six months, was shot in the abdomen and left to die between Moose Jaw and Pasqua. Pockets of the dead CPR worker had been rifled. The murder remained unsolved.

One of the most gruesome murders was on a farm north of Eyebrow. A farmer learned his infant daughter was not his. She was left in an outhouse to die of exposure. The report described the infant as illegitimate.

Five of the murders in 1913 were committed by females, often with a hatchet or knife.

One woman on a farm shot her stepson with a rifle and threatened to kill her stepdaughter if she told.

The Mounties’ reports seemed a little racist by today’s standards.    

Reports of all cases were recorded starting with the person’s name followed in many instances by a description of their ethnic heritage.

Oddly, only Indigenous and foreigners were described in this manner.

Galicians, Spaniards from Spain’s north, were involved in four murders with three Hungarians, a couple of Russians and Swedes, a German and three Indigenous people, who were referred to by derogatory terms used at that time.            

Only one Anglo-Saxon, an Irishman, was identified by ethnic race.

Not nearly as many Mounties were on duty as now.

Strength of the RNWMP in 1913 was 763 members, 572 horses and 160 dogs. The dogs were used in the Yukon and Territories.

Saskatchewan had 300 officers, Alberta had 290 while “new Manitoba’’ had 22 with 61in the Yukon and Territories.

In 2019 Saskatchewan had about 1,300 RCMP officers.

The Regina depot division, which includes Moose Jaw, investigated 5,087 cases with 4,364 closed.

Increased settlement brought a rash of crime with 1,620 cases in 1906 ballooning to 2,454 in 1908 and 4,349 in 1912.

Not having any money on you was a crime called vagrancy. The common sentence for vagrancy was six months hard labour in jail.                                     Almost one in five cases— 996 — were vagrancy.

Drunk and disorderly involved 514; liquor licence infractions, 297; firearms violations, 70; shooting cattle, 12; with 50 vehicle charges

Police charged 545 with common assault and one husband for deserting his wife.

Ron Walter can be reached at  

The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author, and do not necessarily reflect the position of this publication.          

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