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 benefitting from these crimes? I sure hope so.