Cortlandt Starnes



April 1, 1923 - July 31, 1931

Starnes is here, an Inspector photographed in 1900 whilst stationed at Dawson City. He is wearing the undress cavalry patrol jacket with full dress breeches and the recently approved stetson and brown Strathcona boots.

Commissioner Cortlandt Starnes was born in Montreal, Quebec on March 31, 1864 and was educated at Plateau Academy, a commercial institution in the same city. By the mid-1880s he held a position in a customs brokers company. His real love however was soldiering. He attended Infantry School in St. Jean, Quebec and in 1884 was awarded a 1st class certificate. In 1885, when the Rebellion broke out, Starnes accompanied the 65th Mount Royal Rifles Regiment westward as an Adjutant. When the conflict was over, Starnes was awarded the North-West Rebellion Medal and Bar and was appointed Inspector of the North-West Mounted Police.

Starnes' career in the Force was long and varied, serving on the prairies, in the Yukon, Quebec, Manitoba and Ottawa. On April 1, 1923, he became the 7th Commissioner of the Force, the first of French Canadian ancestry. His period as head of the Force was one of expansion of duties, particularly with respect to enforcement of federal statutes, increased mechanization with radio, telephone and the motor car, as well as growing technical services in ballistics, forensic science, photography and fingerprinting. Two noteworthy accomplishments carried out by Starnes were the resumption of provincial police responsibilities in Saskatchewan in 1928 and the creation of the Anti-Narcotic and Drug Distribution Branch in the Force.

Starnes retired on August 1, 1931 having served over forty-five years. He died at St. Hilaire, Quebec on May 28, 1934 and is buried in Cote des Neiges Cemetery, Montreal.


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by Stephen Luscombe