British Columbia. Provincial Police Force

Identity area

Type of entity


Authorized form of name

British Columbia. Provincial Police Force

Parallel form(s) of name

Standardized form(s) of name according to other rules

Other form(s) of name

  • Provincial Police Force
  • British Columbia. Provincial Police

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Description area

Dates of existence



The British Columbia Provincial Police Force was established in 1871 under its first name, the British Columbia Constabulary. Prior to that, policing in the Colony of British Columbia was the responsibility of the Chief Inspector of Police (1858-1863) or Superintendent of Police (1863-1871) and in the Colony of Vancouver Island by the Commissioner of Police (1858-1866).

In 1871, when the Colony of British Columbia joined confederation as a province of the Dominion of Canada, the police came under the authority of the Attorney-General. The reporting structure required the Superintendent of Police to report to the Attorney-General. Supervision of Police Constables throughout the province was divided between the Government Agent of the district and the Superintendent.

Since before confederation, there was often a large amount of overlap between duties of constable an Government Agents, particularly in rural communities. Agents could supervise Constables, and in many cases (particularly before confederation) acted as Constables. Constables could be the only government representative in very remote locations. In these cases they fulfilled some responsibilities of the Government Agent, and could be considered constable/recorder, constable/assessor, constable/collector or even constable/assessor/recorder. The inclusion of non-police work for some Constable's workloads greatly reduced through the twentieth century, but did not cease completely until 1950.

The mandate of the British Columbia Constabulary was to maintain peace and order and to enforce the laws of the province under the authority of An Act respecting Police Constables (Statutes of British Columbia, 48 Vict., c. 22, revised 51 Vict., c. 96).

In 1895, under the new Provincial Police Act (SBC 1895, 58 Vict., c. 45) the name was changed to the British Columbia Provincial Police Force. The duties of the force included patrolling the land, waterways, and coastline, enforcing laws, maintaining peace, policing strikes, controlling smuggling, and generally enforcing provincial statutes. Special constables were also deployed as required. Police in remote areas could do a wide variety of additional jobs, including gaoler, coroner, and court clerk.

The administration of policing was divided into a variety of police districts, which changed over the years. The 1923 Police and Prison Regulation Act (SBC 1923, c. 57) led to the reorganization of the 16 district headquarters into four main divisions. "A" Division was divided into Victoria and Vancouver subdivisions. "B" Division had its headquarters in Nelson and included the following districts: Boundary, Fernie, Northeast Kootenay, and West Kootenay. "C" Division had its headquarters in Kamloops and included the following districts: Kamloops, Lillooet, Vernon, and Yale. "D" Division had its headquarters in Prince Rupert and included the following districts: Fort George, Hazleton, Peace River District, and Prince Rupert. There was also a separate Liquor Branch. The provincial headquarters and Police Superintendent's office remained in Victoria (see the 1924 Superintendent of Police report in the BC sessional papers for further details).

The 1923 Act greatly modernized the police force. It officially made the Attorney-General the head of the Police, and for the first time, uniforms were issued to constables.

In 1946, the force policed all rural areas and unincorporated settlements as well as forty municipalities throughout the province. The British Columbia Provincial Police Force ceased to exist in 1950, when provincial policing was taken over by the Royal Canadian Mounted Police.


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Related entity

British Columbia. Superintendent of Police (1858-1950)

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Type of relationship

British Columbia. Superintendent of Police


British Columbia. Provincial Police Force

Dates of relationship

Description of relationship

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Dates of creation, revision and deletion

Revised: RMCRORY 2021-12-02




Central Name Authority File
Anholt, “Friends of the Government: An Administrative History of the British Columbia Government Agents” (PhD diss., University of Victoria, 1991).

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