Find out: Mounties

mounties1 The Mounties always get their man . . . and their woman, too

The Mounties are to the world’s police forces what the French Foreign Legion is to its armies: in the public eye they are an elite, brave band of men who fight fearlessly to keep their country safe from the forces of evil.

This image has its roots in history, but Hollywood has surrounded it with glamour and legend, and we have all seen movies starring the big, handsome hulk in his red tunic and his Stetson, riding a beautiful white horse, taking out the bad guys by the dozen, and charming the loveliest and most starry-eyed of Canada’s young ladies. You will see their rugged, smiling faces on the big screen, on TV and in advertisements for Canada, but if you visit the country, you will be lucky to see a member of the Royal Canadian Mounted Police dressed so elegantly, or seated on a horse – unless you are watching the Mounties on a special occasion like a parade on Canada Day.


The RCMP was founded in 1873 to enforce the law in Canada’s new western provinces, which were plagued by illegal fur trappers and criminals selling whiskey to the Indians. A few years later the force helped protect the workers building the Canadian Pacific Railway, which was one of the roughest and toughest construction jobs in modern history, and then it kept crime down during the Klondike Gold Rush in the late 1890s.
The Mounties are Canada’s federal police force, and so have the same role as the FBI in the USA. They are a modern, well-equipped body of 22,000 men and women who fight all types of crime from murder to drug smuggling to economic crime. They are also responsible for airport security and for the protection of foreign heads of state on visits to Canada. They also served abroad in the 1990s as peacekeepers in places such as Namibia and Kosovo.

You will often not notice them, since they carry out lots of their duties in plain clothes, and when you see them in uniform, you may be disappointed, since they wear grey and blue shirts and pants and ordinary police officers’ caps, just like policemen and policewomen in the USA and most European countries. Almost all of them, that is. There are a number of Sikh officers on the force, and in 1990 it was decided that they should be allowed to wear turbans. As for the horses, forget them. The RCMP travel in cars, helicopters and speedboats, for obvious reasons.
And the Mounties have got their women. The first female officers started training in 1974 – a brave thing to do at that time in such a macho environment – and more and more women join the force every year. There was another break with tradition in June 2006, when two male members of the RCMP married each other in full ceremonial uniform –- yes, red tunics and Stetsons –- at the force’s first same-sex wedding. Things are certainly changing in the Mounties!



1 mounties2 ) Understanding the text

a) Put these events in chronological order:

  • The Klondike Gold Rush took place.
  • The Mounties went to the Northwest.
  • The first gay marriage in the history of the Mounties was celebrated.
  • Women joined the RCMP.
  • The Mounties helped in the construction of the Canadian Pacific Railroad.
  • Sikh officers were allowed to wear turbans.
  • RCMP officers did duty in countries outside Canada. 

b) These statements are not true. Rewrite them so that they tell the truth.

  • Movies about the Mounties show us facts only.
  • RCMP officers always wear red tunics while on duty.       
  • They sit on horses when directing traffic.
  • Building the Canadian Pacific Railway was easy.
  • In the late nineteenth century it was legal to sell whiskey to Canadian Indians.
  • All RCMP officers wear caps like those worn by police officers in the USA.
  • You did not have to have much courage if you were a woman joining the RCMP in 1974.
  • The Mounties have served only in Canada.

2) Vocabulary
Find opposites of these expressions in the text:

  • cowardly
  • ugly
  • unfortunate
  • untidily
  • legal
  • attack
  • easiest
  • in their own country
  • forbidden
  • unclear

3) Research

Go to the website of the Royal Canadian Mounted Police below and answer these questions. You will not find the answers in the text you have just read.
a) Which European police force was the RCMP modelled on?
b) Why does its name include the word “Royal”?
c) What is the force’s motto?
d) Where are its national and regional headquarters?
e) What was the Cypress Hill Massacre?