Royal Canadian Mounted Police
Symbol of the Government of Canada

History of the RCMP in Nova Scotia

An RCMP presence was first established in the Maritimes following the historic re-organization of what was until then known as the Royal North West Mounted Police. February 1, 1920 marked the transition for the organization from a more regional police presence to a truly national institution as the newly designated Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP) absorbed the existing Dominion Police and became responsible for federal law enforcement across the country.

'On Tap'

An exceptionally ingenious scheme for concealing contraband liquor was discovered on April 27, 1932 in Halifax.

Officers discovered an ordinary looking sink in the upper room of a raided house that had been modified by a clever bootlegger. While one faucet did, indeed, dispense ordinary water, the other poured contraband rum from a reservoir located in another room.

All told, RCMP officers seized more than 20 gallons of illegal alcohol that evening -- giving new meaning to alcohol 'on tap.'

Over the ensuing 12 years, the Maritime Provinces District was responsible solely for federal policing in the region. Its compliment during this period never exceeded 37 men, 25 of whom were tasked with the policing of military installments in and around Halifax, including the Halifax Naval Dockyards and Naval magazines. With only 12 remaining members to carry out investigational work in three provinces, the RCMP faced a daunting task. The majority of their work centred around enforcing customs, excise, fisheries and immigration laws. A number of high profile cases, particularly in relation to the region's famous bootleggers, proved that they were more than up to the task.


Throughout this period, provincial policing was disorganized and sporadic. In several instances the region's RCMP was called upon for assistance, including one case in which RCMP members were dispatched to control members of an outlying community intent on scavenging a ship wrecked on its shore. In that case, the RCMP would assist in laying nearly 50 charges on behalf of the province's Attorney General, despite the fact their mandate did not officially extend to provincial matters.

In response to economic pressure caused by the Depression, by the 1930s many provinces were looking for ways to cut costs. Law enforcement offered a perfect opportunity to do so while also benefitting citizens by offering integrated provincial and federal law enforcement. It was no surprise then that in late January, 1932, Nova Scotia's Premier Gordon Harrington began to discuss RCMP take-over of provincial policing.

April 1, 1932 saw the realization of RCMP contract policing in Nova Scotia. Nearly 90 members of the former Nova Scotia Police and 35 of the Preventive Service (former Department of National Revenue force) swore the RCMP oath to "faithfully, diligently and impartially execute and perform [their] duties," on that day.

RCMP Recruits, 1939

By 1933 any regionalization of administration had been abolished and Nova Scotia was christened "H" Division -- afforded equal status to divisions in other contract provinces. In reference to their concentration on preventing the smuggling of hard liquor, the group was soon nicknamed "Hard Stuff H" and would prove themselves worthy of the moniker.

As Nova Scotia's primary provincial police force over the ensuing 70+ years, the RCMP presence in Nova Scotia has continued to expand. Today the Force maintains more than 50 detachments in rural and urban settings across the province -- always remaining committed to keeping Nova Scotian homes and communities safe.

For more information on the history of the Royal Canadian Mounted Police, visit our National Web site .