Canada Riddled With
Gangs, Organized Crime

From S. F.
Asian Organized Crime And Terrorist Activity In Canada, 1999-2002
A Report Prepared under an Interagency Agreement by the Federal Research Division, Library of Congress July 2003
* Despite several border concerns that need to be addressed, the sheer length of the U.S.-Canadian border, at over 5,500 miles and containing vast zones of virtually nonexistent border demarcation, make it unlikely that any amount of funding can entirely address the border issue.
* The Big Circle Boys gang has demonstrated the greatest expansion in Canada since its presence was detected there in the late 1980s. With cells present in cities throughout North America, and a willingness to cooperate with ethnically diverse groups, the Big Circle Boys have become extensively involved in the Southeast Asia heroin trade and are responsible for a high percentage of the counterfeit credit cards in North America.
* The 14K triad is the fastest growing group in Canada and has a presence in New York and other U.S. cities.
* Vietnamese organized crime groups in Canada are expanding rapidly in high-technology crimes and are believed to be involved in the trafficking of women. Their extensive networking activities have led to fear that such groups eventually will be organized into formal and structured groups.
* Faced with the likely spread of Asian organized crime groups and given border porosity and immigration laws, for the foreseeable future Canada will continue to serve as an ideal transit point for crime groups to gain a foothold in the United States.
Commercial Activity
The U.S-Canadian border stretches approximately 5,500 miles... of 113 designated land crossings, 62... were unguarded at night as of October 2001.
Contributing to the problem, sparsely populated mountainous regions, prairie, and forest where in many places border demarcation is virtually nonexistent, comprise the vast expanse of the border. In comparison to Mexico, which has approximately 9,000 Customs, Immigration and Naturalization Service and Border Control personnel guarding the 2,000-mile United States-Mexican border, only 965 such U.S. personnel were guarding the Canadian border as of October 2001, and only 2400 Canadian Customs personnel were on duty. According to a September 2002 article in The News Tribune [Tacoma, WA], only 346 U.S. Border Control agents were assigned to the U.S.-Canadian border, including the border with Alaska. This number averages out to one agent for every 16 miles, and represents an increase of only 15 people since September 11, 2001. Given these conditions, the porosity of the U.S.-Canadian border represents a continued problem.
Akwesasne Reservation
Adding to the issue of border porosity is the use of the Akwesasne reservation as an illegal border crossing. The reservation, consisting of 14,000 acres, is home to the St. Regis Mohawk Indians. The territory reaches from Cornwall, Ontario, and Massena, New York, along 25 miles of the St. Lawrence River channels and 20 islands, to just north of Vermont. The Mohawk Nation Council controls the entire expanse of the reservation's territory. Although not recognized by either the government of the United States or Canada, the council has demanded and has been granted the right of the Mohawk people to have freedom of movement across the U.S.-Canadian border, as well as the right to transport goods across the border without controls or payment of taxes. This demand was granted with the condition that non-native people are not allowed to take advantage of the rights of movement and tax-free trade. Despite this requirement, the region is used as an illegal border crossing for Asian organized crime groups, among others and, therefore, constitutes one of the primary gaps in border security.
Although U.S. and Canadian authorities have the right to inspect the land for illegal contraband or persons crossing without permission, this right is often not exercised. Instead, a militant group of Akwesasne, equipped with stockpiles of small arms, acts as defenders of the land, exercising control over the individuals entering their territory. The group receives its funding almost exclusively from the proceeds of criminal activities. The Walpole Island and the Niagara area also continue to be used by Asian organized crime groups as a convenient route to smuggle both contraband and people across the border, due to its geographic location between Ontario and Michigan at the mouth of the St. Clair River.
Immigration and Refugee Policy
Canada's immigration policy and entrepreneur program allow foreign nationals to enter the country with relative ease and become Canadian residents, thereby positioning themselves for easy access to the United States. Each year approximately 300,000 people are allowed entry into Canada, twice the number per capita that the United States allows in. In addition, few restrictions apply to countries of origin for persons seeking entry into Canada. Unlike the visa waiver program in the United States, which grants entry without a visa to residents of only 27 countries, Canada grants visa-free entry to residents of nearly 60 countries. This number includes Greece, Mexico, South Korea, and Saudi Arabia. Canada relies on paper identification for immigrants, forged versions of which are available on the black market for roughly $1,000. Those found to be misrepresenting themselves at the border do not face any ban. They are merely turned away and can attempt to re-enter the country immediately. Asian criminal groups, especially those from China, Hong Kong, Macau, and Taiwan, as well as terrorist groups, exploit these policies. A report in the Hong Kong Kuang Chiao Ching indicated that Chinese organized crime groups from these regions are increasingly using Canada as a base because of their ability to obtain legal residency in Canada relatively easily and then freely enter the United States.
Canada's refugee policy has been very welcoming since the mid-80s. It was then that the Canadian Supreme Court broadened the definition of "refugee" by guaranteeing a hearing for anyone entering the country claiming to be a refugee, even if that person could provide no documentation... In contrast to the situation in the United States... people rarely are detained because of lack of identifying papers...
The process of determining a person's eligibility for refugee status can take years, and even if a refugee claim is denied claimants often can stay in Canada if they declare that they will be put in danger when returning to their native country. While awaiting a scheduled hearing, a refugee claimant is eligible for welfare or employment and is covered by the national healthcare system. Refugee claimants may also avail themselves of the public education system. The number of refugee claimants was 44,000 in 2001, up from 22,000 just three years before; the number of refugees allowed entry each year is now approximately 30,000. However, possibly 60 percent of all claimants possess insufficient documentation or no documentation at all. Hence, many just disappear, often skipping their asylum hearings, and enter the United States illegally. Currently over 25,000 arrest warrants are outstanding for those people who have skipped their asylum hearings.
Canadian Ports
According to a March 2002 article in the National Post, a Canadian Senate committee on national security, which met in February 2002, identified Canada's ports as a breeding ground for organized crime and terrorism. In 1996, when the government began to disband the port police service, private security companies began assuming security responsibilities at Canadian ports. The senate committee reported that 36 percent of employees in charge of going over manifest lists for cargo containers at the port of Montreal, 39 percent of the dock workers at Halifax, and 54 percent of the dock workers at the Charlottetown port had criminal records. In addition, several ports do not have adequate identification requirements for employers nor do they have adequate security fencing. Organized crime groups reportedly exercise great control over Canadian ports and have been cited as major conduits for drug smuggling, the export and import of stolen automobiles, and the theft of cargo. Officials fear that terrorists could use the ports to smuggle a weapon of mass destruction into the country. The committee additionally reported that the Chretien government had been receiving warnings on the state of Canada's ports for six years, but continued to ignore the advice of law enforcement officials.
Unlike traditional organized crime groups such as the Italian La Cosa Nostra, Asian organized crime groups, including both those groups that were established in Canada and those that originate abroad but have members operating in Canada, lack a set structure at the operational level even if a hierarchy exists at the organizational level...
Even when part of a specific well-known group, such as the Big Circle Boys, for example, members often operate in small, cell-structured groups or partnerships, if not independently, when engaging in illegal activities. Subsequent to the achievement of a particular goal, these partnerships often are dissolved... It is not at all uncommon for members and associates of these groups to conduct numerous dissimilar criminal activities, often with different groups simultaneously, be they ethnically homogenous or heterogeneous. It is because of this decentralization that specific details on individuals and groups are often unavailable, at least in open source research materials. In contrast to the Cosa Nostra, which is organized in a pyramid structure, making it possible for law enforcement to trace the organization to its highest level, Asian organized crime groups are organized more as autonomous mini-pyramids, with small cells and mini-bosses dictating the actions of only their particular cell...
Canada's Asian crime groups are more complicated to combat than groups such as the Italian Cosa Nostra because of historical and geographical factors. Asian organized crime groups place high priority on ethnicity for membership in their organizations. This fact is especially true for the more traditionally oriented Chinese triads. There are few, if any, accounts of non-Asian members being accepted in their networks. Hence, given the lack of Asians in U.S. and Canadian law enforcement, the networks are difficult to infiltrate.
U.S. and Canadian law enforcement authorities presently are unable to strike at the core of many triads, which often are located in countries where broad cooperation between law enforcement officials currently does not exist. And in many cases, the independent and cellstructured nature of most Asian organized crime groups makes it unlikely that destruction of the central authority of the more organized triad groups would have any substantial detrimental effect on operations in Canada and in the United States. The presence of various cells from the same organization in different cities or countries also gives these groups contacts that they can trust and do business with. These cells have proven to be of great advantage to a criminal group like Big Circle Boys, for example, allowing the group to combine its various assets and expertise for the perpetration of transnational crimes.
Types of Crime
Heroin Trafficking
The United States-Canada Border Drug Threat Assessment of December 2001 estimates that 95 percent of all heroin entering Canada originates in Southeast Asia. Chinese organized crime groups in Canada almost exclusively traffic heroin produced in Southeast Asia, primarily originating in parts of Burma, Laos, and Thailand, known as the "Golden Triangle" region. Canadian intelligence additionally suggests that Burma is becoming a major source of ecstasy and that Asian organized crime groups soon will move to exploit the situation.
According to the Criminal Intelligence Service Canada (CISC), all major heroin seizures in 2000 and 2001 involved Asian organized crime groups, although these groups may link with other groups to facilitate their activities. The report further found that Southeast Asian heroin usually enters Canada through Vancouver, Toronto, or Montreal via international airports and major British Columbia marine ports. The CISC also reports that Asian organized crime groups use the northern half of Saskatchewan for the importation of heroin and cocaine from British Columbia and Alberta. In addition, the CISC reports that Chinese and Vietnamese drug syndicates based out of Edmonton, Alberta, and Calgary now have established a permanent presence in these regions and that Ontario groups are continually involved in the large-scale importation of heroin.
The presence of these groups in Canada is a threat to the United States. The groups that smuggle heroin into the United States often operate on both sides of the border and control distribution. Furthermore, several organized crime groups overseas are involved in shipping heroin to Canada for the very purpose of exploiting the porosity of the U.S.-Canadian border. Heroin trafficking, in particular, involves the cooperation of various groups at different levels to get the product to its final destination. For example, street gangs often act as enforcers who are, in turn, supported by more established and powerful groups.
These trafficking groups are independent and diverse, composed of both triads and other criminal organizations. Although individual triad members reportedly are involved in trafficking heroin to the United States through Canada, the triads as organizations do not control the trade. Triad membership is more a prerequisite for sellers to gain permission to sell drugs at the street level. No such membership seems to be required for entering the international drug market...
It is not uncommon for a member of one triad to team up with another triad member and work for the leader of a heroin smuggling group who is not a member of any triad at all. The situation is viewed as a private business transaction. Still, triad membership can be essential for purposes of networking and the development of criminal relationships based on trust. It should also be noted that no consensus exists on the degree of triad involvement in the Canadian drug trade, and some officials believe that the triads control the market.
Trafficking of Women
Trafficking of persons, both for sexual exploitation and labor, is the fastest growing form of organized crime. It has been increasing dramatically in Canada, aided by the ruling of Human Resources and Development Canada in April 1998, that foreign nationals employed as "exotic dancers" were not displacing Canadian workers. This ruling created a legal avenue that was quickly exploited for illegal activities. Trafficking became illegal only in 2001 after the passage of the 2001 Immigration Act; prostitution, however, remains legal in Canada.
Traffickers subsequently have found ways to exploit the system to provide sexual services. For example, foreign women can enter Canada legally as students, visitors, domestic workers, or mail-order brides.
Human traffickers also make use of the Chinese smuggling network, known as "snakeheads," which often moves aliens into the United States in maritime vessels. Some gangs charge immigrants as much as US$40,000 for passage to the United States. The United States government estimates that 30,000 to 40,000 Chinese were smuggled into the United States in 1999, although reliable estimates of the number of Chinese who enter through Canada are not available through open-source materials. Canadian officials currently estimate that more than 50 immigrant-smuggling groups are in Toronto alone...
Profits from trafficking of women are remarkably high. Smugglers may receive between US$5,000 and US$15,000 for every person successfully smuggled into the United States, be that person a woman or a minor...
The control that traffickers exercise over the persons they traffic also mitigates against effective deterrence. In Canada, trafficked women are generally required to testify against their employers in order for the latter to be convicted. However, cooperation with Canadian or U.S. authorities may expose the individuals or their families to great harm at the hands of the organized crime group in their native country. Because victims fear such reprisal, and hence refuse to testify, many criminals have been successful at avoiding jail time.
Financial Crimes
Major financial crimes tied to Chinese organized crime groups include credit card forgery, software technology piracy, and other high-tech crimes. The groups also pursue more traditional crimes such as vehicle theft, money laundering, and gun running. The Organized Crime Agency of British Columbia (OCABC) has singled out Asian organized crime groups as leaders in the counterfeit credit card business throughout North America. The Lower Mainland of British Columbia has experienced a disproportional outbreak of these crimes.
Since 1999, credit card fraud has remained at extremely high levels in Canada, although there has been a recent decline. According to the CISC 2001 report, the total loss figure in 1999 was CDN$226.7 million and in 2000 it was CDN$172.5 million. In 1999, the value of forged credit card activity was CDN$123.6m; in 2000 it was CDN$81.1m; and in 2001 it was CDN$182.7m... Asian organized crime groups have worked with East European, East Indian, and Nigerian-based organized crime groups in this counterfeit card industry.
Although South America and Mexico are emerging as centers for producing counterfeit credit cards in the Western Hemisphere, ethnic Chinese crime groups with operations in major commercial centers in East Asia, particularly Hong Kong and North America, are most often identified with fraudulent credit card activity...
Large-scale manufacture and distribution of pirated software, CDs, and DVDs are also common financial crimes that continue to affect U.S. businesses.
The United States and Canada share a unique relationship based on democratic ideology and geographic proximity. These advantages have facilitated the development of a mutually beneficial partnership between the two countries in the form of international trade, relatively open borders, and integration between the two societies. Each country is the largest trading partner of the other. However, the very benefits stemming from this relationship continue to be exploited by both organized crime and terrorist groups.
Because of inadequate funding and insufficient personnel on both sides of the border, the U.S.-Canadian border remains relatively porous and can be crossed in many areas without fear of encountering security personnel. The sheer length of the U.S.-Canadian border, at over 5,500 miles and with vast zones of virtually nonexistent border demarcation, make it unlikely that any amount of funding can entirely address the border issue...
Ethnic Chinese triads, gangs, and syndicates have set up vast operations in Canada and constitute the greatest criminal threats in Canada. These Asian groups are involved in a wide variety of criminal activities, primarily in large population centers. Although virtually homogenous in makeup, Asian organized crime groups continue to deal with non-Asian groups in pursuit of profitable activities.


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