Former RCMP Commissioners

Robert (Bob) W. Paulson

November 21, 2011 to June 30, 2017

Bob W. Paulson served in the Canadian Armed Forces between 1977 and 1984. He was a qualified pilot and instructor. He joined the RCMP in 1986, and spent his first 19 years in British Columbia, where he distinguished himself in major crime and organized crime investigations. In 2005, he transferred to National Headquarters in Ottawa, where he worked in senior roles in national security, criminal intelligence, contract and aboriginal policing, and federal policing.

Appointed commissioner on November 21, 2011, Commr. Paulson made significant contributions, including advocating for a modernized RCMP and enabling the RCMP Act; taking steps to better protect first responders and Canadians, and making wholesale changes to harassment policies and investigation procedures. He led the settlement of a class-action lawsuit by female employees and provided a historic apology to those impacted by harassment. He was a strong advocate for the mental health and well-being of RCMP employees.

William J. S. Elliott

July 16, 2007 to November 20, 2011

In July 2007, William J.S. Elliott, an experienced lawyer and executive who had held progressively senior positions within the public service, became the first civilian to be appointed commissioner of the RCMP. Elliott had previously served as National Security Advisor to the Prime Minister, Associate Deputy Minister of Public Safety and Deputy Commissioner of the Canadian Coast Guard. Commissioner (Commr.) Elliott led a comprehensive effort to realize a "vision for change" which would result in the RCMP becoming an adaptive, accountable and trusted organization of fully engaged employees demonstrating outstanding leadership and providing world-class police services.

Beverley Busson

December 16, 2006 to June 14, 2007

Beverley Busson joined the RCMP in 1974 as part of the female troop. She served in a variety of front-line operational positions that included general duty, fraud investigation, drug enforcement and serious crimes investigations. In 1999, Commr. Busson left the RCMP to head the Organized Crime Agency of British Columbia, returning in 2000 to become commanding officer of the RCMP's division in that province. She was promoted to deputy commissioner of Pacific Region in 2001 while retaining her role as commanding officer. Commissioner Busson was the first woman to head the RCMP, receiving many honours for her service with the force.

Giuliano Zaccardelli

September 1, 2000 to December 15, 2006

Born in Prezzo, Italy, Giuliano Zaccardelli migrated to Canada with his family at the age of seven and lived in Montreal until he joined the RCMP in 1970. In the aftermath of the tragic events of September 11, 2001, Commr. Zaccardelli was faced with the challenge of securing Canada from unprecedented threats and promoting a truer understanding among Canadians of all backgrounds. He was a strong and active communicator, and an authority and speaker on integrated policing, organized crime, globalization and related issues.

Joseph Philip Robert Murray

June 25, 1994 to August 31, 2000

After recruit training, Joseph Philip Robert Murray remained in Saskatchewan and attended the University of Regina, where he was awarded the General Proficiency Scholarship in both 1975 and 1976 and completed a Bachelor of Administration in 1977.

During his mandate, Commr. Murray established townhall meetings to improve communication within the force and initiated corporate sponsorship. In 1997, he ended the RCMP's responsibility for airport security, leaving it to local police services and private security agencies. He adopted alternative dispute resolution and developed the mission, vision, and values and shared leadership statement, which still guide the Force today.

Norman David Inkster

September 1, 1987 to June 24, 1994

Norman David Inkster joined the RCMP in 1957, beginning his career in Regina, but later moving throughout Canada. Commr. Inkster faced the unionization debate, established an external review committee to address public complaints, expanded international police duties with peacekeeping and adopted community policing as a service delivery model.

He is perhaps best known for wanting to "change the face" of the Force by campaigning to make the RCMP a career option for all Canadians no matter their race, gender or ethnic background, helping to establish advisory committees for local communities, and allowing members of the Force to be exempted from wearing any item of the uniform on the basis of their religious beliefs. On June 2, 1991 Commr. Inkster was presented with a Corps Ensign by the Governor General, the first ensign granted to the Force.

Robert Henry Simmonds

September 1, 1977 to August 31, 1987

During Commr. Simmonds' term in office, the McDonald Commission published its report recommending that a civilian security intelligence agency be established separate from the RCMP. In 1984, the Canadian Security Intelligence Service (CSIS) was established and the RCMP's Security Service was formally disbanded. After retiring from the RCMP in 1987, Simmonds was involved in peace negotiations between warring tribes in South Africa and became the senior law enforcement officer with the United Nations Fund for Drug Abuse Control (UNFDAC) in Vienna.

Maurice Jean Nadon

January 1, 1974 to August 31, 1977
(Acting Commissioner December 29 to 31, 1973)

Maurice Jean Nadon was appointed commissioner of the RCMP on January 1, 1974. During his term, there was a great deal of media criticism for the Force's alleged targeting of politicians and over-application of the War Measures Act during the FLQ Crisis in Quebec. Commr. Nadon emphasized a war against organized crime, introduced female and married personnel into the ranks, led operations through the Montreal Olympics in 1976, and introduced a prevention-oriented concept of policing.

William Leonard Higgitt

October 1, 1969 to December 28, 1973

William Leonard Higgitt joined the RCMP at the age of 20, and specialized in intelligence and security work. During his term in office, the guidon was presented to the force by Queen Elizabeth II, the first video-file system for storing and retrieving fingerprints was obtained, airport policing began, the Canadian Police Information Centre (CPIC) with nationwide computer services was opened and the creation of the Canadian Bomb Data Centre was authorized. Commr. Higgitt directed operations during the FLQ Crisis in Quebec in 1970 and was responsible for organizing many events connected with the RCMP centennial celebrations in 1973.

Malcolm Francis Aylesworth Lindsay

August 15, 1967 to September 30, 1969

During his early career with the RCMP, Malcolm Francis Aylesworth Lindsay was one of the first groups of university students sponsored by the RCMP. As commissioner, Lindsay advocated bilingualism in the force, replaced sled dogs with snowmobiles, thereby ending the dog patrol era, and instituted training for Indigenous individuals to perform police duties under RCMP supervision.

George Brinton McClellan

November 1, 1963 to August 14, 1967

George Brinton McClellan served as commissioner during a busy period, with the advent of the Centennial Year and Expo 67. To deal with growing organized crime, commercial fraud and use of illegal drugs, Commr. McClellan chaired two federal-provincial conferences that resulted in the expansion of National Police Services and the Canadian Police College. He terminated equitation training for all recruits, which eliminated the horse as an integral part of the Force's establishment, but maintained it for the Musical Ride. Although controversial, this decision reinforced the Force's tradition of adopting modern methods of policing.

Clifford Walter Harvison

April 1, 1960 to October 31, 1963

Clifford Walter Harvison quickly rose through the ranks of the Force, gaining much experience in criminal investigation. He studied law enforcement methods in Great Britain, the United States, Pakistan, India, Ghana, Liberia and most European countries, and was especially interested in intelligence-gathering systems. Upon becoming commissioner, Harvison recognized that Canada had become an increasingly attractive target for organized crime, and established national crime intelligence units across Canada. He also understood the need for cooperation between police organizations on the international and national levels, and represented the RCMP at several associations, including Interpol and the International Association of Chiefs of Police.

Charles Edward Rivett-Carnac

April 1, 1959 to March 31, 1960

Charles Edward Rivett-Carnac had a long and varied career both inside and outside the RCMP. He lived in India, where he managed an elephant camp in the foothills of the Himalayas until joining the RCMP. During his service, he worked in the Arctic and the West and was the officer in charge of the Special Branch in Ottawa during the Gouzenko case. He was also the editor of the RCMP's Quarterly magazine before becoming commissioner. Commr. Rivett-Carnac made revisions to both the RCMP Act and Superannuation Act, which provided disability pensions for injuries sustained on duty. Just before leaving office, he was elected vice-president of Interpol.

Leonard Hanson Nicholson

May 1, 1951 to March 31, 1959

Leonard Hanson Nicholson was the first commissioner of the RCMP from the Maritimes. He joined the organization at 19 and served in the New Brunswick and Nova Scotia Provincial Police forces before being appointed commissioner. His principal accomplishment as commissioner was an extensive building program to provide proper accommodations for force members and employees at all levels, from detachments to headquarters. He also reorganized the administration of the force, increased manpower and upgraded transport and communications technology to increase efficiency.

Stuart Taylor Wood

March 6, 1938 to April 30, 1951

As commissioner during the Second World War, Stuart Taylor Wood helped establish the First Provost Company for overseas service and dealt with espionage cases. He also opened new detachments in the North, organized a permanent RCMP Band, established a horse-breeding station at Fort Walsh, improved wireless communications and broadcasting, and instituted a preventive policing program directed towards youth.

Sir James Howden MacBrien

August 1, 1931 to March 5, 1938

Sir James Howden MacBrien served with the North-West Mounted Police (NWMP) before joining the militia in order to participate in the South African War and First World War. As Chief of General Staff of the Overseas Military Forces of Canada from 1919 to 1920, he was a key figure in the creation of the Department of National Defence and in 1923 he was appointed the first Chief of Defence Staff.

During his term with the RCMP, Commr. MacBrien almost doubled the strength of the force, established a marine division, an aviation section, a police service-dog section, the first crime detection laboratory, a museum in Regina for the RCMP and the Long Service Medal. He also created a reserve force of members to be trained and ready in the event of an emergency. Commr. MacBrien died while still in office, and was buried with full military honours.

Cortlandt Starnes

April 1, 1923 to July 31, 1931

After a long and varied career, Cortlandt Starnes became the seventh commissioner of the Force and the first of French Canadian ancestry. His period as head of the Force was one of expansion of duties, particularly with respect to the enforcement of federal statutes, increased mechanization with radio, telephone and the motor car, as well as growing technical services in ballistics, forensic science, photography and fingerprinting.

Aylesworth Bowen Perry

August 1, 1900 to March 31, 1923

As an inspector in the NWMP, Aylesworth Bowen Perry led a contingent to Queen Victoria's Diamond Jubilee in England in 1897, the first occasion on which a detachment of the Mounted Police was sent overseas. As commissioner, Perry organized a secret service for intelligence gathering, instituted annual training classes, increased pay rates, revised regulations related to marriage and formed two squadrons to fight in the First World War. He approved changes to the uniform, including the adoption of the Stetson and helped reorganize the Force after it absorbed the Dominion Police, extending police services throughout Canada.

Lawrence William Herchmer

April 1, 1886 to July 31, 1900

Lawrence William Herchmer was appointed commissioner by Sir John A. Macdonald after a career that included British military training. Herchmer served throughout the expansion of the Force into the Yukon, created a riding school in Regina and raised recruitment standards. He introduced a regular system of patrols which reported extensively on all activities in areas under NWMP jurisdiction. Herchmer also improved living conditions and benefits for members by establishing a pension program, creating divisional canteens and recreation rooms and organizing sports during off-duty hours.

Acheson Gosford Irvine

November 1, 1880 to March 31, 1886

Acheson Gosford Irvine was the first native-born Canadian to command the NWMP. After a career in the militia, he joined the NWMP and moved quickly from superintendent to assistant commissioner before being appointed commissioner. As commissioner, Irvine increased the number of members from 300 to 1,000, raised the age of recruits, established a permanent headquarters in Regina, and created the training facility in Regina, which remains active to this day.

James Farquharson Macleod, C.M.G.

July 22, 1876 to October 31, 1880

James Farquharson Macleod had a similar military lineage to his predecessors, and built upon their efforts when he was appointed commissioner. He oversaw the moving of police headquarters to Fort Macleod, adopted a distinctive uniform and established a rank structure. He has also been credited more than any other individual with establishing the peaceful policies followed by the NWMP in their dealings with First Nations.

George Arthur French

October 18, 1873 to July 21, 1876

George Arthur French established the Canadian Militia Gunnery School in Kingston in 1871; he remained with the Royal Artillery until he was appointed the first permanent commissioner of the NWMP. French built on his predecessor's efforts, recruiting, training and establishing high standards of discipline and morale, which imbued the Force with its military character. French also commanded the March West, effectively bringing law to the unmapped Western territories.

Lt. Col. W. Osborne Smith

September 25, 1873 to October 17, 1873

W. Osborne Smith served as a British Army officer in the Crimean War before coming to Canada and joining the militia. He was appointed for a temporary period as the first commissioner of the NWMP. Lt. Col. Smith swore in the first members at Lower Fort Garry, secured the supply of uniforms from militia stores and commenced training.

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