Remembering the Mounties

A retired RCMP officer has made it his mission to ensure all departed Mounties get their due.

Written by Nelle Oosterom

Posted November 8, 2017

Joseph “Buffalo Joe” Healy has spent countless hours since 2001 working on a database that contains the name and regimental number of every Canadian mounted police officer going back to 1873.

Feeling a sense of obligation to identify and to care for the graves of deceased members, Healy created in 2001 after a thirty-six-year career with the force.

The database includes thirty thousand photographs and information about Mountie graves and monuments in Canada and elsewhere.

Healy receives information, anecdotes, and photos from veterans, members, and families and friends of the force from around the world. Among them is one from Kevin Vickers, Canada’s ambassador to Ireland, who is best known for his role as sergeant at arms in the House of Commons in 2014, when he helped to bring down a gunman who went on a shooting rampage in the Parliament Buildings.

In a letter posted to the website, Vickers, a former RCMP commissioner, noted that a small gravesite in rural Ireland contains the remains of William Francis Butler — the British army officer responsible for the formation of Canada’s federal police agency. It was Butler who gave Prime Minister John A. Macdonald recommendations about the type of police force needed to settle the West.

“The rest is history,” wrote Vickers. “But there he lies in Ballyslateen, Tipperary, with no monument to indicate his involvement in the creation of the North West Mounted Police. How could such a man become forgotten in history?”

The wish to ensure that members are not forgotten drives Healy to keep adding to the website, which also includes sections such as “Tales From Fort Healy” and “Highly Mounted RCMP Mysteries” that contain amusing stories about the force, as well as Healy’s own experiences.

Healy’s work earned him the Sovereign’s Medal for Canadian Volunteers from the Governor General in 2016, as well as a Commissioner’s Commendation from the RCMP in 2013.

“This information, which I input daily — many hours each day — is of immense help to Canadians, archivists, genealogists, family members, troop mates, and members of other police forces around the world who are keen to begin their own databases and to follow this model,” said Healy.

This article originally appeared in the December 2017-January 2018 issue of Canada’s History magazine. 

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