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September 10, 2004

Canada's top cop was from Mattawa

On important community anniversaries it’s fun to look back on some of the successful people who have roots in the community.  Mattawa, a town of 2,300 is no exception on the 120th anniversary of its incorporation.  I have written about several people with Mattawa roots that have been of special interest to me – Anahareo, Gordon Dufoe, John Argo, Mike Rodden and Dr. S.F. Monestine.  As with most communities some make a name for themselves at home while others do so elsewhere. 

I recently came across the story of Mattawa’s Maurice Nadon who lived in Mattawa from 1920 to 1932 and went on to become the first bilingual Commissioner of the RCMP – Canada’s Top Cop as the job is sometimes called.  He oversaw the introduction of women in the RCMP. 

Maurice Nadon’s daughter Suzanne, a United Church Minister in St. Adele, Quebec contacted me recently about her native roots on her great grandmother’s side.  She has a church at Kanesatake, 60km west of Montreal, where native issues were front page news in January when the Grandchiefs house was burned over policing issues.  Suzanne, who has written several books, is doing a history of her family including her grandfather Zeph Nadon, one of Algonquin Park’s best-known Park Rangers and her father Maurice who rose through 18 promotions to become RCMP Commissioner from 1974 to 1977. 

On a recent vacation with her father Suzanne visited the family cottage in Radiant in Algonquin Park where her grandfather lived for much of his 41 year career as a ranger and where her father spent summers in his childhood.  They met me, Gerry Therrien and Rene Lamarche at the Mattawa Museum where we toured the Museum and later had a lengthy lunch at Mert’s Restaurant. 

Nadon family in Mattawa in 1928.  Maurice is third on the right.

Maurice’s father Zeph lived in Mattawa where he and his wife Emma raised 9 children before moving to Ottawa in 1932.  Emma came from the Leblanc family who lived on Water Street where her father Edmond ran a saw mill.  Maurice brought along a couple of albums of photographs, many of which have been copied and are now at the museum.  The Nadon family lived directly across from the Museum in a house that now forms half of the Smith Funeral Home.  Maurice went to school at the old St. Anne’s school, played many sports in the area, and played on Explorers Point which was his front yard. He remembers playing Hookstrah, a game I am not familiar with but which Mike Rodden mentions in his book Anent Michael J. edited by Peter Handley which describes Mikes early years in the same local as Maurice. 

Maurice was presented with Rodden’s book along with other Mattawa books by Leo Morel, Gerry Therrien, and Gordon Dufoe.  Maurice will donate an RCMP uniform and has provided a photo display on his life in Mattawa and in the RCMP to the Museum.  The career of Maurice’s father Zeph will also be included.  To read about Zeph look for him in Audrey Saunders’ classic book The Algonquin Story – now in reprint through The Friends of Algonquin Park.  The book tells how Zeph was involved in the famous caper by Archie Belany (before he became Grey Owl) when Archie tried to illegally cross the park on snowshoes and got in all kinds of trouble. 

In our interview with Maurice he talked about the family car accident where he was a survivor, but 2 of his brothers and 4 others died in 1942.  He also told us he was colour blind and could no get into the army so went into the RCMP in 1942.  We concluded that his people skills, his hard work and his administrative ability pushed him through the ranks and made him Canada’s senior police officer. 

Maurice Nadon with Queen Elizabeth on one of several occasions he met her.

Maurice and his wife Madeline visited with the elite of politics and royalty.  Maurice was the Co-Grand Marshall of the Calgary Stampede with Prince Charles and later delivered an RCMP horse to the Queen with High Commissioner Paul Martin Senior.  He enjoyed talking about when his wife had to buy a hat to be worn a couple of hours and never again on one occasion.  Maurice rubbed shoulders with numerous heads of countries around the world as a part of security on their Canadian visits. 

The icebreaker NADON prior to its trip across the north west passage in 2000.

Former RCMP Commissioners have buildings or boats named after them.  The 17.7 meter catamaran ice breaker NADON is named after Maurice.  It became famous in 2000 when it replicated the trip across the North West Passage originally taken by the St. Roch establishing Canada’s sovereignty during World War II.  The NADON also circumnavigated North America in 5 months on the same occasion.  (For details check Google under Nadon/St. Roch II). 

Maurice enjoys his summers in his beautiful log home near Bancroft and his winters in his home in Ottawa.  He continues playing tennis, curling, and keeping active and enjoys his family and friends.  We wish him all the best and look forward to seeing his story in the Museum in Mattawa.

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