To maintain law and order in the North-West Territories, the government of Prime Minister Sir John A. Macdonald (1815–1891) passed an Act of Parliament in 1873 authorizing the creation of a mounted police force. Steele, then an instructor in the Canadian Permanent Artillery, was eager to head west again, seeking adventure. The Mounties welcomed Steele because of his military experience. They made him a Sarjeant-Major, and charged him with instructing new recruits in horsemanship, marksmanship, and general police duties. His reputation as a disciplinarian unnerved many recruits, but his men came to respect him for his integrity and strength of character.
After training hundreds of men in Toronto and Fort Garry, Manitoba, the Mounties began the “Long March” west in the summer of 1874, seeking to control the whisky trade and protect railway workers. The Canadian Pacific Railway was being built at a furious pace, but the labour camps were rife with drinking and gambling. The Mounties enforced prohibition along the rail line, but the task was exceedingly difficult.
In makeshift courtrooms Steele frequently served as judge and jury to decide the fate of hundreds of men. He secured a reputation as a tough and fearless dispenser of justice.
Steele was temporarily detached from his duties with the Mounted Police when Louis Riel returned from the United States to lead another rebellion. Appointed a Major in the Alberta Field Force, Steele played a significant role in suppressing the rebellion as commander of Steele’s Scouts.