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Greed or desperation? What’s really behind Indo-Canadian truckers’ drug trade connection

On Oct. 14, the Toronto Star published a feature article exploring the Indo-Canadian trucking community’s ties to the drug trade.
The report indicated that Indo-Canadian gangs are preying on vulnerable truckers to get loads of contraband transported across the Canada/US border. In some cases, yes, greed is a motive on the part of the trucker. In many others, however, these gangs are convincing otherwise law-abiding truckers to smuggle drugs or risk consequences such as the murder or harm of family members back in their homeland.
The Star article indicates that as few as 3% of trucks crossing at Windsor-Detroit are thoroughly searched and that for every illegal shipment intercepted, 200 more could successfully pass through. Faced with those odds, it’s somewhat easier to understand how so many truckers risk it all, particularly if the safety of their loved ones is at stake.
Far too often, we dismiss these incidences as cheap freight-haulin’ New Canadians needing to supplement their income to make their truck payments after undercutting rates on legitimate freight. Maybe we should pause to consider that they could in fact be victims.
I’m not suggesting for a second that the legal system should go easy on those who import illegal drugs into our country. After all, the drugs they bring across the border ultimately end up on the streets, where they’re marketed towards our children.
Anyone caught carrying contraband across the border should be prosecuted to the full extent of the law, including deportation if applicable.
What I am suggesting is that we become less eager to judge the perpetrators of these crimes, and avoid painting an entire segment of the industry with one broad brushstroke. Just as those who haul drugs across the border represent a tiny segment of the overall Canadian truck driver population, they also are not wholly representative of the Indo-Canadian driver community. Who among us can say with certainty that we’d make the right decision when faced with the prospect of an easy payday that would help us re-unite with our family that’s stuck halfway around the world? Who are we to say we would refuse a load of contraband when faced with the grim reality that saying no could bring harm to our loved ones?
Many of us live our lives in accordance with two guiding principles: to do what is right and honourable and also to do whatever is necessary to provide for our loved ones.
Sometimes those tracks do not run parallel to each other and it’s then that painfully difficult decisions must be made.
Organized crime – and make no mistake about it, it’s organized crime that’s behind most of these transactions – has identified a vulnerable and conflicted segment of the driver population and is exploiting these individuals for its own gain. Our real anger and dismay should be directed at these criminals; yet they remain faceless and anonymous and so it is difficult to do so. It’s easier to read the name in the paper and shrug it off as another of “Brampton’s finest” getting busted once again.
Arresting these drivers and incarcerating them is an appropriate action. It’s also the easy part. But are we expending the resources necessary to fully understand the dynamics behind their decisions and focusing on bringing to justice those who are truly benefiting from these crimes? I sure hope so.

James Menzies

James Menzies

James Menzies is editor of Truck News magazine. He has been covering the Canadian trucking industry for more than 15 years and holds a CDL. Reach him at or follow him on Twitter at @JamesMenzies.
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13 Comments » for Greed or desperation? What’s really behind Indo-Canadian truckers’ drug trade connection
  1. Billy says:

    There may well be some victims but they would be a very, very scant few. A victim would be someone who did not know the stuff was there. This is not the case in 99% of these siezures.
    Are some of these guys in a financial bind and trying a shortcut to get out? Maybe but that is still a choice and at that point you are not a victim. Make no mistake this is organized crime and like most organized crime it is kept within your own ethnicity because these are the people they feel they can most trust. The pressure tactics come into play afterward to keep people participating.
    I have been doing this since 1975 and for a good deal of that time had very long hair and I’m 6’2″ creating some image in people’s minds that I’m something I’m not. I have been approached many times over the years but was never offered enough to make up for the loss during the several years in prison were I to get caught. That is the difference, these guys think they have the system beat and won’t get caught. To a great degree, by law enforcement’s own admission, they are right just due to the sheer volume you can’t check everybody.
    Victims? I don’t think so unless you would be so generous as to say they are victims because of their own bad decisions in which case we should close all of the jails and prisons because that is the reason most inmates are there.

  2. John says:

    “undercutting rates on legitimate freight”
    To quote from The Star article:
    “For years, Indo-Canadian gangs in B.C. have been involved in cross-border drug smuggling, infiltrating the trucking industry and fighting turf wars that have often been bloody and vicious.”–indo-canadian-truck-drivers-from-gta-caught-in-web-of-north-american-drug-trade
    A little forensic accounting regarding shipping rates would be in order.
    When these guys can ship freight for basically the cost of the fuel you know something is wrong.

  3. Gary says:

    We all know they are playing with the system. Not just contraband but with logs, hours of service , Training, cheap trucks , workshops , safety for truck is now available at $100 and that even sitting at home. Every guy who becomes so called AZ driver is a contractor and opens up his own corporation aand starts playing with taxes openly. There is a very large majority of people out there who do not pay there drivers even after they have worked for them for months , and these poor people do not know what to do.
    Major issue is training , I am surprised how these schools are allowed to operate with full impunity, we should bring immediately some kind of law to stop all this otherwise it will be too late.
    I hold AZ license, experience and all other documents to be successfull in this trade but to no avail. There are people out there those who want to take this profession seriously but there is now place for them where they can go and discuss or mentor with whom they can have open discussion, organisation or training institutes which are supported by all top transport companies so that they know once doing course from that institute they do not have to search for job, its all there for them wether long haul or short haul.
    There is no platform where people like me can come and share our thoughts and ideas .
    There is big Gap between our words and actions and this is where these people come and play there part and are bring bad name to this profession.

  4. This particular segment of the human race comes from a part of the world where stealing will result in having your hands cut off, promoting female education will result in getting shot in the head and some think nothing of walking in to a crowd of innocent people with explosives strapped to their body and detonating them in the name of religion. How can any one of us be so naïve as to actually believe that they would have any concern for, or place any value on the Canadian way of life?
    What shall we do about what drugs are doing to our families and the future of this country James? If we are forced by law to remain politically correct, our way of life itself is doomed and though that thought could be seen as racist, it is actually “realist” and I personally think we should be encouraging the Indo Canadian community to bring some solutions to t he table instead of sitting on our hands for fear of being politically incorrect or branded racist.
    Our beloved Canada is being raped, pillaged and plundered by invited guests; perhaps it’s time to say the party is over – go home…

    • Sameer says:

      Larry, not sure if you drive a truck if you do, perhaps you’re familiar with a little item called a map. If you’re not, I suggest you look into getting one.

      Although you shouldn’t attribute the actions of a few to the general population, if you’re going to do so, at least be correct as to which race you’re stigmatizing. I suggest you look at the difference between the ‘Middle East’ which is where I believe is where you derive the following belief’s from:

      ‘where stealing will result in having your hands cut off, promoting female education will result in getting shot in the head and some think nothing of walking in to a crowd of innocent people with explosives strapped to their body and detonating them in the name of religion.’

      And compare that to South Asia, mainly India – a democratic country, that’s where the ‘Indo’ portion of Indo-Canadian stems from, and perhaps consider educating yourself, especially when you believe that values of the people you’re commenting on are obviously not as advanced as yours.

      Good luck.

      Sincerely, a concerned ‘Indo-Canadian’

  5. Dave says:

    Wait….so they hurt our families because we can no longer legitimately provide for them, and we have to feel sorry for their families?????? I pay more and more taxes every year, while these guys are A) Making me starve, B) Doing illegal activities, C) Siphoning money from our tax system by collecting social assistance and then sending it back home. Oh yeah, you’re absolutely right, I should really feel sorry for them. Actually moreover, I should feel awful and ashamed of myself and my family that all work hard, pay taxes, and contribute to society in more ways than these guys can ever think of. After all, we’re not threatened by organized crime, so we’re living the good life. When a parasite starves, cripples, and kills its host because the host was too nice, caring, and giving, who do you blame?
    And BTW, my heart bleeds for these drug smugglers “just trying to feed and protect their families”, so out of my tax dollars I’ll pay for their lawyer, translator, new clothes for court, all transportation costs, any other religious or cultural requirements they desire, and finally I’ll pay for all their their food, medical, dental, entertainment, guards, and shelter while they rot in prison for the next 15-20 years. I wonder what they’ll do for me if I go over to their country?????

  6. John says:

    Back in the late 70’s, as a skinny white kid, I was asked to bring a load across the border into Canada that I knew included contraband under the floor boards. I made the choice to say no. That choice had nothing to do with the fact that I was (still am) white. That choice had nothing to do with the money I was being offered. I understand the difference between right and wrong. I elected to take a Greyhound back home to Brampton no less, and find another job.
    This is not about Indo-Canadian drivers, this is about a small select segment of the Canadian population making bad choices. It just so happens that they are identifiable by their culture and skin pigment.
    Others that have commented before me have touched on other issues:
    Incorporated drivers; not on topic however a HUGE resentment for many of us, as are the carriers (and or agencies) that utilize them. When are we going to beg CRA to clamp down on this.
    Licensing; I worked hard to obtain and maintain the skills and knowledge I have. An AZ can still be purchased, and yes I can name names, and I have provided them to the MTO.
    Indians are topical now, in the 80’s and 90’s it was Pakistanis, before that it was Negros, before that Scottish, then Irish… Don’t be blinded by muted racist overtones, don’t allow political correctness to change the hue. A criminal act is a criminal act and warrants appropriate punishment. Colour or country of origin be damned.

  7. John Wihksen says:

    Hi James, The Indo-Canadian gangs have proliferated on the west coast for 25 years and they have devastated the trucking industry by undercutting the rates established.The container haul Vancouver to Seattle is a prime example.The owner operators are now 90% Indo-Canadians and last week are rallying for higher rates! This was their mode of takeover on the Fiji Islands 50 years ago.They control the drug trade and trucking is an Ideal business to move drug shipments across the border.

  8. Dave,
    Interesting that in your protest of alleged discriminatory writing – that you are the only one who has mentioned skin pigment…
    This article was about East Indian gangs, East Indian drug smugglers, criminal acts linked to the trucking industry and the rational possibly associated with it.
    To close our eyes to the obvious would be to close our eyes to identifying a problem and having a hope in Hell of dealing with it.
    You are right when you say that historically people have always found reasons to target particular groups (dis-flavor of the week) but it is unfair of you to look away from the obvious and ask us to join you – particularly since East Indians are no longer a visible minority in this country and especially in the trucking industry; they really don’t need a skinny white boy to protect them from racial overtones, they are very capable of defending themselves if need be (I digress).
    Your protest is actually odd: (so, so is this analogy)
    It’s like finding cat poop in the flower bed and you suggesting that we talk about animals in general because other animals poop too – instead of focusing on keeping the cats out of the flower bed.
    I’m curious if you contacted police about your encounter with a contraband smuggling trucking company or if you chose to look the other way at that time as you do today.
    When we all look the other way, everyone is victimized so as far as I am concerned, “political correctness” – be dammed, when disease is identified, it needs to be dealt with no matter the colour.

  9. John H says:

    A huge percentage of truck drivers and businesses on the West Coast are Indo-Canadian.
    However, when I go to Truxpo in Abbotsford far less than one percent of the people there are Indo-Canadian.
    In the last few years on the West Coast the Indo-Canadians have their own truck show called the Apna Truck Show, link below:
    In the Hindi the word “Apna” literally translates to “one of our own”.

  10. Praveen says:

    Why is it that when ever indo canadian is caught in drug charges its all over the news and when ever any other white,black or hispanic is charged we don’t even talk about it HERE i’m not defending indo canadians but its the truth speacially Toronto Star has a grugh against Indo Canadians why is that and first thing everyones comes down to is rate cutting come on guys its a buisness like any other if you can get the regular loads would’nt youmove them or will you preffer to park your trucks and go on welfare.

  11. Tony Godsoe says:

    The war on crime is not working remember during Prohibition all the illegal booze that went across the border to the U.S. we live in different times and drugs are huge money if you do not get caught. The punishment does not fit the crime DEPORTATION might help.

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