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Dominion Police
1868 - 1920

Photo of Dominion Police officers

When I was conducting research for my novel, I discovered the Dominion Police Force and its Secret Service. During WW1, it was running investigations and counter-intelligence operations against the activities of German military attachés, captains von Papen and Boy-Ed.

Very few of the records of the Dominion Police survived, but the ones that have provide a very interesting glimpse of Canada’s counter-intelligence activities at the time.

The Dominion Police was initially established in 1868, with fewer than a dozen men whose principal duty was to protect federal government buildings in Ottawa.

Under the leadership of Commissioner Gilbert McMicken, who was appointed in December 1869, the Dominion Police began to undertake security and intelligence work in response to the Fenian movement in the United States.

In 1920, the two federal police forces, the Dominion Police and the RNWMP police, were consolidated. The new force was named the RCMP.

In 1885, Sir Arthur Percy Sherwood became the Commissioner of the Dominion Police. By the time Sherwood retired in December 1919, the size of the force and the scope of its activities had expanded. The duties of the Dominion Police were:

The Dominion Police reported to the Minister of Justice. In 1913, the Commissioner of the Dominion Police became the Chief Commissioner of Police in Canada, which meant that all other police commissioners in Eastern Canada were subordinate to him and reported to him in Ottawa.

By 1916, the Dominion Police had 140 officers and constables. There were approximately 30 Special Agents performing surveillance and intelligence work. About half were from American detective agencies such as the Pinkertons and Thiel.

The duties of a Dominion Police officer were varied. Constables were assigned to investigate, prevent, and enforce laws concerning:

Sources and further reading


Dominion Police, 1868-1919, Library and Archives Canada - Police

Dominion Police - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia


Granatstein, J.L. and David Stafford. Spy Wars: Espionage and Canada from Gouzenko to Glasnost, Diane Book Publishing Company, 1997.

Mount, Graeme S. Canada’s Enemies: Spies and Spying in the Peaceable Kingdom. Toronto: Dundurn Press, 1993.