Law enforcement in Canada

In Canada, public-sector police forces are associated with and commissioned to the three levels of government: municipal (both lower and upper-tier), provincial, and federal. Most urban areas have been given the authority by the provinces to maintain their own police force. Some, such as the Toronto Police Service and the Service de police de la Ville de Montréal are commissioned to one particular city, Toronto and Montreal, respectively, while the Niagara Regional Police services all cities comprising the Regional Municipality of Niagara. All but two of Canada's provinces in turn, contract out their provincial law-enforcement responsibilities to the RCMP/GRC (Royal Canadian Mounted Police/Gendarmerie Royale du Canada; popularly known in English-speaking areas as the Mounties), the national police force, which is commissioned to the federal level of government. In addition, many First Nation's Reserves have their own police forces established through agreements between the governing Native Band, province and the federal government.

Police services

Ontario, Quebec, and Newfoundland and Labrador maintain their own provincial police forces—the Ontario Provincial Police, Sûreté du Québec (Quebec Provincial Police) and Royal Newfoundland Constabulary. Smaller municipalities often contract police service from the provincial policing authority, while larger ones maintain their own forces. Newfoundland's provincial police force is only responsible for the province's larger urban areas (St. John's, Corner Brook and Labrador West); the province has contracted the RCMP/GRC to patrol the rest of the province. The other seven provinces and the three territories contract police services to the RCMP/GRC. It also serves as the local police in all areas outside of Ontario and Quebec that do not have an established local police force, mostly in rural areas. Thus, the RCMP/GRC is the only police force of any sort in some areas of the country.

There are also a few private police forces with some of the powers usually reserved for governmental forces (as it relates to company property). The Canadian National Railway, Canadian Pacific Railway and Via Rail each have their own police force (CN Police, Canadian Pacific Police Service, and Via Rail Police[1] respectively). Any railway in Canada, under Federal jurisdiction, can request that a Superior Court judge appoint police officers under the Railway Safety Act.[2] The duties of private railway police are to prevent crimes against the company and protection of goods, materials, and public rail transit being moved on their rail systems. They work to protect the public, rail personnel, and property owned or administered by the railways. The regular public police maintain authority and jurisdiction for all criminal offences, regardless of whether the offence occurs on public or private property. Some hospitals, universities, transit commissions, power authorities and other agencies employ special constables. The local police chief has statutory and Common Law authority and responsibility for the jurisdiction policed. The duties of private special constables are determined by their employers and have authorities limited by statutes under which they operate. All persons and companies have access to public police.

Canadian Forces Military Police

The Canadian Forces Military Police (CFMP) contribute to the effectiveness and readiness of the Canadian Forces (CF) and the Department of National Defence (DND) through the provision of professional police, security and operational support services worldwide.[3]

CFMP are classified as Peace Officers in the Criminal Code,[4] which gives them powers similar to civilian law enforcement personnel to enforce some Acts of Parliament on or in relation to DND property or assets anywhere in the world. The National Defence Act does not bestow the authority to the Minister of Defence to appoint Police Officers. Section 156(1) of the National Defence Act does allow the Minister to confer Peace Officer Status to Specially Appointed Military Police Members. They have the power to arrest anyone who is subject to the Code of Service Discipline (CSD), regardless of position or rank under the National Defence Act (NDA). MP have the power to arrest and charge non-CSD bound civilians only in cases where a crime is committed on or in relation to DND property or assets, or at the request of the Minister of Public Safety, Commissioner of the Correctional Service of Canada or Commissioner of the Royal Canadian Mounted Police. Although MP jurisdiction is only on DND property across Canada and throughout the world, any civilian accessing these areas falls under MP jurisdiction and are dealt with in the same manner as any civilian policing agency. If in fact a crime is committed on or in relation to DND property or assets, MP has the power to arrest and charge the offender, military or civilian, under the Criminal Code. It is important to note though that the purpose of the CFMP is not to replace the job of a civilian police officer, but rather to support the Canadian Forces through security and internal policing services.[5][6] MP also have the power to enforce the Provincial Highway Traffic Act on military bases in Canada.


Map of Police per 100,000 population across Canada, 2012.[7]

In 2011, there were 69,438 active/sworn police officers in Canada. This number was expected to exceed 70,000 by the end of 2012. Canadian police strength reached a peak in 1975, when there were 206 officers per 100,000 people. Although the current number reflects a significant rise in the total police strength in the country (the highest in twelve years after steady declines in the 1980s and 1990s), Canada still utilizes fewer police than Wales (262/ 100,000).

Provincially, Saskatchewan had the highest number at 207 officers per 100,000, and the province has also held the national record for the highest crime rate since 1997. The lowest numbers were in Prince Edward Island, Newfoundland and Labrador and Alberta.[8] The three territories, while having far fewer police officers in absolute terms, have around twice as many police officers per capita as do the provinces.

The city of Toronto has been known as one of the safest major cities in North America, due to its low crime rate and homicide rate. Toronto's robbery rate also ranks low, with 207.1 robberies per 100,000 people, compared with Los Angeles (348.5), Vancouver (266.2), New York City (265.9), and Montreal (235.3).

Police officers, by province and territory[7]
(Police officers per 100,000 population)
  2003 2004 2005 2006 2007
  police officers per 100,000 population
Canada 187.6 186.9 188.9 191.5 195.2
Newfoundland and Labrador 148.1 148.1 151 156.8 165.4
Prince Edward Island 158.7 150.1 154.2 158.8 163.5
Nova Scotia 171.7 172.2 173.5 178.4 188.4
New Brunswick 170.4 173.1 172.6 172.3 177.1
Quebec 191.7 191.1 194.2 197.3 198.2
Ontario 189.5 187 186.5 187.3 191.7
Manitoba 196.1 193.6 192.1 196.4 203.6
Saskatchewan 200.8 202 203.1 206 206.6
Alberta 158.1 159.7 162.8 166 165.1
British Columbia 171 168.2 174.9 178.1 185.5
Yukon 405.6 391.6 385.6 371.4 385.3
Northwest Territories 386 399.6 405.8 408.5 418.7
Nunavut 414.9 415.1 402.8 396.3 394

Police service ranks

The Chief of Police is the title of the head of most Canadian police forces except for the Royal Canadian Mounted Police (Commissioner), Ontario Provincial Police (Commissioner), South Coast British Columbia Transportation Authority Police Service (Chief Officer), Vancouver Police Department (Chief Constable), West Vancouver Police Department (Chief Constable), and the Sûreté du Québec (Director General). Other typical ranks include:

Use of force options

In the 1990s, the majority of law enforcement agencies of Canada began wearing bulletproof vests and municipal police agencies started carrying semi-automatic handguns in the .40 S&W calibre cartridge. In terms of numbers of officers, and due to its use by the Royal Canadian Mounted Police, the most widely used weapon is the Smith & Wesson Model 5946 with hollow-point 9mm calibre ammunition. A large number of other agencies issue either a Glock or SIG Sauer handgun (most commonly in the law-enforcement popular .40 S&W caliber).

These firearms replaced the aging .38 Special revolver. A police cruiser might carry a carbine rifle; or a shotgun capable of firing a variety of shotgun shells, including the less-lethal flexible baton round and rubber bullets.

Other less-lethal weapons carried include conducted energy weapons, such as Tasers, pepper spray, and an expandable baton. In addition, the personal equipment of police officers typically includes: handcuffs, flashlight, portable radio, notebook, pens, a pair of disposable gloves and Kevlar gloves.

See also


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