Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Rebecca's Question for Vicki Delany

I've always been curious about the Mounties. All my experience comes from Dudley Do-Right, so it might be skewed. What is the jurisdiction of the Mounties? What exactly do they do? Do they really wear those cool red uniforms all the time? Are there any mystery novels with Mountie protagonists? They're cooler than the mounted policemen in New York City!

Indeed, Rebecca they are pretty cool, although Dudley Do-Right is no longer with us, and the only riding they do these days is part of the Musical Ride or on the logo on their patrol cars. You’d be more likely to see a cop on horseback in downtown Toronto than galloping across the open plains, I’m afraid.

The red jacket and riding boots you are thinking of is their dress uniform; the regular uniform is blue with a yellow stripe running down the pant leg. In the picture I have posted above of the visit of President Obama to Ottawa you see the Mounties in their red dress uniform. {The woman with him is Michaelle Jean, the Governor General)

The RCMP (nickname the Mounties, less flattering nickname The Yellow Stripes) are the National Police Force, but in a way that is very different than the FBI. They do regular community policing in areas that do not have their own police force, as well as act in areas of federal interest such as organized crime, terrorism, money-laundering, cross-jurisdiction and border issues like human smuggling and trafficking, and business crime on the international level.

In Canada, major cities have their own police forces but most towns and rural areas do not. In Ontario the Ontario Provincial Police (O.P.P.) provide service to those areas, in Quebec (as all Louise Penny readers know) it is the Sureté Du Quebec, but all other provinces and territories use the RCMP. In British Columbia, I believe the City of Nelson (pop 9,000) is the only city in the Interior to have its own police force, and thus my fictional Trafalgar does as well.

The Nelson police rely on the RCMP for additional officers they might need in cases of emergency and routine policing that requires extra forces, as well as most forensics.

In the first Molly Smith book, In the Shadow of the Glacier, the RCMP arrive to help the city police quell a riot in town. Incidentally, it is at that incident where Molly meets a handsome young Mountie who we will be seeing a lot more of as the books progress. The RCMP also work with local police forces in combined policing for major crimes such as murder with the Integrated Homicide Investigative Unit (IHIT). In the first three Molly Smith books I am juggling eggs to keep IHIT out of the investigation because I want my characters to be doing all the work. In the fourth book (Negative Image, November, 2010) IHIT is finally called in.

A Mountie can do jobs as different as breaking up a bar fight on a Friday night in small town B.C. or Nunavut, guarding the Prime Minister, being part of the Governor General’s honour guard, going undercover into a suspected terrorist training camp, or investigating mob money-laundering.

In real life, these days the reputation of the Mounties amongst the Canadian populace is pretty low. There have been some major incidents in which the RCMP hasn’t acted very well. Example, the Robert Dziekanski case in which a Polish Immigrant, lost and confused at Vancouver airport, was tasered five times by an officer and then four of them jumped on him and he died. This was all captured on video and became a national scandal. Dziekanski was armed with a stapler, that he wasn’t even trying to attack anyone with, and it became a joke that the RCMP needs to be issued with staple-proof vests. It is now the subject, in true Canadian fashion, of a major inquiry that is still ongoing. The affair has reached the top ranks of the RCMP as it would appear they attempted a cover-up, not realizing the video would soon be released to the media. The RCMP has been strongly criticized for knowingly providing false information to the Americans in the Mahar Arar affair in which Arar, a Canadian citizen, was arrested at a U.S. airport and flown to Syria where he spent a year in jail, tortured and made to confess to terrorist activities which had absolutely no basis in reality. Arar was eventually freed, returned to Canada and given $10 million in compensation.

But Canadians are still rather fond of our Mounties, and a lot of that derives from the early days of the NWMP when they imposed “peace, order and good government” on the wild west.

You ask about novels where a Mountie is the protagonist. I had to do some thinking about that, because there aren’t many. Lou Allin has started a new series, the first book of which is titled And On the Surface Die (Rendezvous Crime), Don Easton (Angel in the Full Moon, Dundurn) writes about an undercover Mountie in Vancouver, and the late, much-missed, L.R. Wright had a Mountie series. Rick’s Mofina’s Six Seconds has a Mountie character.

In both of my series the romantic interest is a Mountie: I wonder if that says something about me!

Vicki Delany’s newest novel, Winter of Secrets, received a starred review from Publishers Weekly, which said, “she uses…artistry as sturdy and restrained as a Shaker chair.” Vicki writes everything from standalone novels of suspense (Burden of Memory) to the Constable Molly Smith series, a traditional village/police procedural series set in the B.C. Interior (In the Shadow of the Glacier, Winter of Secrets), to a light-hearted historical series (Gold Digger) set in the raucous heyday of the Klondike Gold Rush. Vicki lives in rural Prince Edward County, Ontario, where she rarely wears a watch. Visit Vicki at www.vickidelany.com. She blogs with five other mystery writers at http://typem4murder.blogspot.com and about the writing life, as she lives it, at http://klondikeandtrafalgar.blogspot.com


Charles benoit said...

I've met several mounties over the years, socially and let's just say 'in their service role'. I found them to be professional (if somewhat cold) and helpful, just like most of the police I have met in my travels.

Vicki Delany said...

I am sure there is a story there, Charles.

Rebecca Cantrell said...

Thanks for answering my question.

I'm sorry to hear that Dudley's reputation has become tarnished. I certainly can't imagine him tasering somebody five times.

All your romantic interests are Mounties...hmmm...

Charles, I'd love to hear that story. 'In their service role' is too coy. :)

Anonymous said...

Interesting observations on the RCMP. Looking forward to Vick's newest book--the others are excellent. Gail Cargo

Ann Littlewood said...

There's something about a man in uniform... And in fiction, you can ignore recent blunders. Let's hope they learn.

Jen Forbus said...

Very cool, Vicki, thank you! I use to love a crime drama/comedy called DUE SOUTH - anyone remember it? It paired a NYC police detective with a RCMP officer. The Mountie had a dog named Diefenbaker and I talked my parents into naming their yellow lab after that dog! I loved that show. I even have a season on DVD.

Vicki Delany said...

Due South was just great. Do you know where the name Diefenbaker came from? A former Prime Minister, John Diefenbaker. If you are a Paul Gross fan look for last year's movie Passendale. I don't think it got in theatres in the U.S. but is available on DVD.

Jen Forbus said...

Excellent! Thanks Vicki!