Roots of gangsterism among Canadians of Indian origin

Roots of gangsterism among Canadians of Indian origin


Roots of gangsterism among Canadians of Indian origin

A hoarding in Canada hailing Canadian terrorist Hardeep Singh Nijjar

Gangsterism in Canada among Canadians of Indian origin has had grave implications for India, given its links to the Khalistan separatist movement in the Indian province of Punjab.

A section of Canadian Indians who support creation of Khalistan have been demanding a separate Khalistan in India. Naturally this kind of demand from Canadian citizens, with violence associated with it, has created a deep fissure in Canada’s relations with India. In case the Govt of Canada supports such a case then they should help establish the Khalistan on the soil of Canada itself.

Much of the news coverage in India and Canada these days is about the death of a Canadian citizen who happens to be a proclaimed terrorist, Hardeep Singh Nijjar, in Surrey, a town in Canada. As per PM of Canada, this Canadian terrorist was allegedly killed by Indian intelligence agents hunting down terrorists and separatists in Canada.

India vehemently disputes Canada’s publicly voiced charge that Indian agents perched in the Indian High Commission in Ottawa were involved in the killing of Canadian terrorist Nijjar. But the view in India is that terrorists Nijjar’s killing could well be a product of Canada’s culture of tolerating separatist, terrorist and criminal activities of some immigrant citizens regardless of the consequences for the security and territorial integrity of another country, even if that country is a friendly one, like India.

Canada’s riposte to this is that under its democratic system, making a political demand, even if it is secessionist, cannot be prohibited so long as it is made non-violently. At any rate, a foreign country cannot be allowed to bump off a Canadian on Canadian soil, Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau told Parliament. Well if such separatist demand is for bifurcation of Canada itself, then it is upon Canada to decide how the Govt reacts. However other countries are not going to tolerate such nonsense, in case the breakup is being planned against them …..any where in the world.

While both the Indian and Canadian standpoints can be argued, it has to be understood that Canadian terrorist Nijjar’s killing may only be partially explained by references to Canadian Citizens involvement in the Khalistani movement in India or to Canada’s licentious democracy.

The killing could well be part of the gangster culture that is prevalent in a section of the Canadian Indian community in Canada. This gangsterism is, in part, associated with violent separatism. But it has its own social, cultural and political roots. Violent separatism may only be a particular manifestation or offshoot of it.

Gangsterism is part of “community gangsterism”, a characteristic of immigrant communities. Gangsterism in various communities stems from similar conditions and takes similar forms. 

Sri Lankan Tamil gangsterism in Canada reached its height in the 1990s but came down subsequently due to social and economic changes in the immigrant Tamil community. The end of the civil war in Sri Lanka also had a sobering effect. 

Canadian vote-bank politics has also contributed to the existence and growth of Khalistani gangsterism. The Justin Trudeau Government is dependent for its survival on the 25 MPs of the New Democratic Party (NDP) a pro-Khalistani party headed by a Sikh, Jagmeet Singh.

According toLouis A. Pagliaro and Ann Marie Pagliaro of the University of Alberta’s Substance Abusology and Clinical Pharmacology Research Group, the Royal Canadian Mounted Police ( Canadian National Police Force) had consistently ranked “Indo-Canadian gangs” as number three among Asian gangs.

In their chapter in the volume entitled Drugs, and Violent Crime among Canadian Youth: Facts, Trends, Issues, and Implications for Teachers, Schools, and Policymakers published in 2006, the Pagliaros say that about 40 Indo-Canadian gangs are active in British Columbia in 2006.

According to the Police, the number of guns with the “Indo-Canadian” gangsters was “astounding”.
The root of the gangster problem lay in: (1) easy availability of drugs (2) British Columbia’s lax drug laws and (3) the climate of permissiveness in the immigrant social system.

Most members of the Khalistani gangs were adolescents and young men from middle-and upper-class Sikh immigrant families. They also were more likely to live at home with both of their biological parents. Many had some college or university education.

Although some gang members were recent immigrants, others were fourth-generation Canadians. Most were with continued family ties to their place of origin –the Indian Punjab.

It was in the 1990s, that adolescents and young Sikhs from Punjab took up Vancouver’s drug trade, becoming notorious cocaine dealers. They were inspired by the exploits and the subsequent acquittals of cocaine-dealing gangs belonging to other Asian communities. Extensive media coverage had made these gangsters heroes. 

Many Sikh parents worked 12 to 16 hours a day in search of a better financial position. In the process, they completely neglected their children. In the absence of parental acculturation, the kids got their culture from popular violence-filled American, Canadian and Indian videos and bullies in school.

According to Harbans Kandola, head of the “Sikh Alliance Against Youth Violence” many Khalistani gang members knew little of their own traditional Punjabi/Sikh cultural values. They were impressed by Canadian youth culture marked by “flash, cash, and women”. These cultural traits were acquired very early in life. Gangster Jagdeep Singh Mangat, for example, was introduced to drugs when he was in Grade 8.

The Sikh youths’ heroes were Canadian Khalistani gangsters like Peter Gill, Bindy Johal, Ranjit Cheema and Jimsher Dosanjh. Gangster life was considered great because the pickings were attractive with an average of 10,000 Canadian dollars earned a week.
Gangster/Murderer Bhupinder Singh Johal (Alias Bindy Johal), became a “mythological figure” when he was killed by another gang in 1998. According to the Pagliaros, acquittals by the judiciary only emboldened the gangsters by making gangsterism risk-free.
Most incidents were not reported to the Police because the victims feared reprisals. Kandola laid the blame partially on British Columbia’s soft laws on marijuana and the police’s inability to solve murders.

Some gangsters like Johal were Robin Hoods, contributing to Sikh temple building and charities, thereby widening their social support base in the Sikh community.
Because of the absence of control, gangsterism claimed almost 200 lives of adolescents and young men of the Indo-Canadian community in British Columbia, the Pagliaros point out. 

 Social Structure

In traditional Indian culture, boys are pampered. This is so among the Indians in Canada too. According to the Pagliaros, boys received Mustangs and BMWs even for minor achievements like passing a school exam. The other inherited cultural notion is that “boys can do no wrong”. Parents, especially mothers, would defend their stubbornly errant sons even when they were accused of serious crimes.

As pointed out earlier, unabashed patronage extended by White Canadian politicians to the Sikh population has inadvertently boosted the prospects of community gangsters. Politicians across parties see the 700,000-strong Canadian Sikh community as a vote bank.

Because of this, Canadian Governments have not handed over khalistani separatist gangsters wanted by India’s National Investigation Agency (NIA). To date, requests for the extradition of 28 such gangsters are pending with the Canadian government.

In the 1990s, Tamil youth from the lower castes and lower classes who fled war-torn North Sri Lanka had adjustment issues besides financial insecurities in Canada. Gangsterism was an upshot of this. But it was eventually controlled by a number of factors including efforts by community leaders and a general improvement in living standards leading to cordial familial and social ties and fewer clashes with the law.

The end of the war back home in Sri Lanka in 2009 and the extinction of separatism there also played a part in ending Tamil gangsterism in Canada.