Organized Crime—Canada’s Latest National Security Threat

Part I

Organized Crime—Canada’s Latest National Security Threat

The alarm has been sounded about foreign interference attacks on Canada’s government and institutions.  What makes the matter even more troubling is that former Prime Minister Stephen Harper recently spoke at a conference where he stated that national security issues were far worse than we could imagine.

Additionally, reporting seems to be coming out and indicating that hostile nations are finding ways to carry out attacks by the way of third parties—scary third parties—organized crime groups.  Although it may come as a surprise to some, many of these hostile nations that have yet to fully adopt democracy’s principles already have connections to organized crime groups within their own countries, including drug trafficking, human trafficking, and cyber attacking, and they seem to be leveraging them now more then ever before.

These partnerships allow for these crime groups, like those across South America, to launder money courtesy of a hostile nation’s banking system, which is under no requirement to oblige by any international anti-money laundering efforts.  It is also reported that the illegally generated money gets funnelled through ethnic businesses in the countries where it is generated, and the subsequent money that is owed to the South American crime groups is eventually wired to South American bank accounts in their country’s specific currency.

In the past, South American cartels found it necessary to pay for their truckloads of cash, which they made by the way of cocaine, heroin, and fentanyl, to be smuggled back into South America, and it might cost upwards of 20 cents for every dollar.  Smuggling truckloads of cash out of countries like the United States or Canada was costly and could take months, and there was the risk that their cash could get stolen or seized.  Instead, the new methods of laundering through a hostile nation’s banking system have seen new-generation money launderers begin to offer “money delivered guarantees”—to the delight of South American crime groups.

Although Canada has been more reserved in the actions it takes, The United States has gone on to sanction 17 individuals and entities in China and Mexico after carrying out a coordinated crackdown with the Mexican government, targeting the flow of fentanyl and other illicit drugs making their way from Mexico.  The breakdown of those sanctioned are nine individuals and eight companies: six people and seven companies in China and three people and one company in Mexico.  All those sanctioned are accused of supplying equipment to Mexican drug cartels to manufacture and pass off fake fentanyl pills as legitimate, and the unknown mix of the fake pills often makes them far more deadly.  All of this matters, and this new era of third-party attacks poses an immense threat to Canada, which has seen different parts of the country get labelled as hotbeds for organized crime activity.

Third-party attacks on Canada by the way of organized crime groups

One of Canada’s biggest vulnerabilities is likely to come by the way of lofty immigration targets, as Canada aims to double in size over the next few decades, and hostile nations are sure to attempt to threaten aspiring Canadians into doing as they tell them.  Thankfully for us, we have all the technological resources necessary to prevent  attacks, but that does not mean that Canada is impenetrable.

With regard to immigration threats, there was an interesting turn of events regarding the “bogus admission letters” scandal, which had the potential to see upwards of 700 international students get deported: the Minister of Immigration stated that those students who were not aware of the scheme would no longer be deported.  However, what was scary was what the Minister of Immigration stated shortly after that there was evidence to indicate that some individuals who snuck into Canada using bogus admission letters had no intention to study, and that they were involved in organized crime.

The first time the alarms were sounded in relation to organized crime was back in the pre-2000 years when the organized criminal activity that was manifesting out in B.C. began to catch the attention of policing agencies.  Eventually, the policing personnel that were assigned to investigate these matters would be fired after they refused orders to move on to other cases.  The police director that was doing his job and fired without cause was eventually cleared of any wrongdoing after an independent gaming report put together for the Attorney General of B.C.  in 2018 found that the police director was correct in his positions, and that the silence shown from politicians and bureaucrats who ran provincial institutions like the B.C. Lottery Corporation and other Ministerial offices had real-life consequences.

In 2019, the issue of organized crime groups and their ability to operate unchecked was creating so many problems for B.C.  that B.C.’s Attorney General sent a letter to the federal public safety minister requesting that Canada adopt the US-style racketeering laws that were credited for dismantling organized crime groups in New York.  In other words, B.C.’s Attorney General was saying that the province was powerless to do anything to these organized crime groups and that they had begun to threaten the integrity of the province.  However, Canadians should not forget that back in 2009, the then B.C. provincial government made the decision to defund and disband the RCMP’s anti-illegal gaming unit (IIGET) after they had asked for greater power to investigate legal casinos instead of just illegal ones, and after a businessman connected to Asian organized crime was approved by a B.C.  government employee to buy a part of a B.C.  Lottery Corporation casino.

Most recently, a Sikh-Canadian living in B.C., the president of his Gurdwara temple, was gunned down in the temple’s parking lot.  It is sparking fears that nations have become emboldened and are targeting ethnic Canadians with roots from those countries who are involved in advocacy efforts for greater democratic freedoms there.  It is also being reported that this specific shooting involved highly encrypted forms of communication, usually a staple of organized crime groups.  And there have been other attacks that seem to have also involved the use of encrypted technologies, and possibly the direct result of foreign influence.

Although Canada has the National Security and Intelligence Committee of Parliamentarians (NSICOP) and the National Security and Intelligence Review Agency (NSIRA) to oversee all matters related to national security and intelligence matters at the federal level, the split between federal and provincial government jurisdictional powers might have the potential to complicate national security.  Additionally, there were no such committees or review agencies at the provincial level even though much of the infrastructure that was vulnerable to foreign interference attacks fell under provincial jurisdiction like B.C.’s casinos and Quebec’s Hydro-Quebec.

No province is immune to organized crime seeping into its private sectors and public sectors, and if former Prime Minister Stephen Harper is on record saying that national security threats were far worse than we could imagine, then there are real reasons for everyone to be concerned.

Questions for NSICOP and NSIRA

Considering that the latest threat to Canada’s national security seems to be coming by the way of organized crime groups, the dynamic and fuzzy nature of organized crime is such that it makes it likely that municipal and provincial police services willuncover the problem initially.  However, if there is no requirement for full disclosure between provincial and federal policing agencies on “all things organized crime”, then that has the potential to snowball into an avalanche of trouble.

The analysis of Canada’s two bodies tasked with national security and intelligence naturally raises questions as they relate to national security threats by the way of organized crime, because of some of the limitations imposed on NSICOP and NSIRA.  To begin, NSICOP does not have access to ongoing police operations, including police operations related to organized crime operations, and while NSIRA is entitled to receive all national security and intelligence information held by federal entities, including the RCMP, it appears that provincial policing agencies are under no such requirements.

If there are government documents indicating that policing agencies were prevented from pursuing leads related to organized crime matters by provincial governments after it seemed to implicate individuals in positions of consequence, was it also possible that lower- to mid-level policing agencies could have become compromised from within and acted to prevent pursuing leads related to organized crime matters as well?

One thing that is unclear about NSICOP and NSIRA is that there is little clarity regarding the extent of cooperation across federal and provincial lines because the language around everything seems to solely focus on federal departments and agencies and with no mention of provinces, and without the provinces having their own such committees and review agencies.  Questions along these lines would require connecting with NSICOP and NSIRA, and looking at what they do from a different angle.

Ultimately, however, organized crime might be the most dangerous threat to Canada because of organized crime’s ability to seep into both the private and public sector and organized crime’s influence to spread like wildfire.  It can be next to impossible to contain once when the fire is lit. The question of whether or not Canada has a strategy to fight organized crime and to expel those elements from the private and public sector is a determination that is too early to make, and one I will not comment on until I hear back from NSICOP and NSIRA and after hearing what provincial bodies have to say.

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