NRI

Google fb32x32 twitter linkedin feed-icon-32x32

Gangs Of Vancouver: Part 1

Gangs Of Vancouver: Part 1

October 21, 2010

Why are NRI gangs sprouting in Vancouver, Canada?



The Rise of Indian Organized Crime in Canada

Why does an Indian leave India? The answer to this question is not as interesting as the person answering. Indians emigrate for a multitude of reasons: job opportunities, university admissions, fateful visits to loved ones that end in permanent residences. They leave to build a future for their families, because they know that the future they want, India can’t provide.

But then there are others, those who leave for not-so-fruitful reasons. They leave from persecution and discrimination. They leave from unpaid debts and prices on their heads. They run away from their dark pasts, from crimes they can’t come to terms with, from people they can’t face, from lives that can’t exist. They leave for the future of their families because they know that in India, a future doesn’t even exist.

But every Indian in a new land is faced with the situation of grasping one single reality – that their identity is no longer dominant in the environment, that they are out-of-place in this new land and their identity will eventually erode. It’s like taking water and pouring it in a sauna. Eventually it’ll become steam. And just like the hundreds of reasons for emigrating from India, there are as many ways to cope with the culture shock of the new land. Some Indians volunteer at local temples or mosques, live in majority Indian neighborhoods, shop at local Indian grocers, and invest in Satellite dishes to get mediocre Indian serials.

And then there are those who find less fruitful ways to cope. Those who join gangs to preserve their social identity. Such is a reality for Indians living in Vancouver, one of the most popular cities for Indians outside India.

In 2009, a gang war broke out in Vancouver. The war involved five gangs fighting over drugs. It culminated in over a hundred murders. The gangs were mostly made up of Indians.

I decided to find out what sparked the gang war and why Indian gangs have become so significant in Vancouver crime. In my research, I started out with a lot of questions. Did these gangs start as offshoots of gangs from India? What generation of Indians was at the heart of these gangs; new immigrants or second generation Indian-Canadians? How does Canada’s policy of multiculturalism factor into all this? Did it have a hand in creating these gangs? Finally, how did this gang war start?

Before any of these questions can be answered, let’s ask a simpler question: why does one join a gang?

People join gangs when they feel insecure of their surroundings. You join a gang because your friends and you are of a particular ethnic make up and you wish to unite as one and be strong against those who may persecute or bully you and your kind. You join a gang to find a group of people who look like you, speak like you, and share the same values. Such is the way the Italian and Irish gangs started at the turn of the 20th century, for they too were made up of new immigrants in a strange land.

At this turn of the century (2000), we saw a shift from that particular type of gang origin story. In Canada, gangs are becoming multicultural. This may come as no surprise to the average Canadian. Most Canadians are proud of the fact that their society is multicultural. Canada is an increasingly ethnic nation and the policy of multiculturalism is strong in government. So you’d think that a multicultural society reflecting a multicultural identity upon its citizens would no longer give birth to gangs made up of single ethnic groups.

This is far from the fact. Uni-ethnic gangs are also on the rise.

In sharp contrast to the boiling pot policy of the U.S., where all immigrants become American once they become citizens, Canada is more lenient and cherishing of immigrant culture. Canadians believe in promoting other cultures rather than boiling them all down to one. Thus, immigrants who come here can move into ethnic pockets of metropolitan cities or suburbs and never leave those pockets to interact with members of other ethnic groups. An Indian grandmother may never see a white person again because her world is her house and the playground where she takes her grandchildren to play with the other Indian children. There she chats with the other Indian parent of her majority Indian suburb. My own grandmother lived in Canada half her life, never learned to speak English except for greetings like “hello” and “goodbye” when answering the phone, and only had Indian acquaintances. Integration in Canada isn’t mandatory and is very weak, especially if you’re dependent and don’t have to work.

This type of existence probably led to the beginnings of the two Jat Sikh led gangs involved in the 2009 Vancouver gang war: the Sanghera Crime Group and the Buttar gang. These gangs originated in East Vancouver. Both kept operations internal, enlisting family members and close relatives to carry out acts. The Sanghera Crime group itself was completely family run. It was controlled by patriarch Udham Singh Sanghera, the sole autocratic leader of the gang. He made his sons major leaders in the gang who then enlisted cousins and brother-in-laws to carry out drug runs. Sanghera was a first generation immigrant in Canada. He wanted to make his family rich but couldn’t do it the legitimate way due to a lack of education and poor job prospects. The only ways he knew were criminal ones. In the 2000s, the Sanghera group were involved in shootings, abductions, robberies, home invasions, racketeering and extortion. When they entered the drug trade, they came into conflict with the Buttars.

Named after their leader Manny Buttar, police officials considered the Buttars ruthless and even more violent then the Sangheras. Buttar associates were involved in over a hundred murders prior to the war.

The gang is run by men who have a sociopathic disregard for morals, right and wrong, and common decency,” claims Inspector Brad Desmarais of the Vancouver police.

You’d expect ethnic gangs to provide protection to immigrants of the same ethnic background. The Buttars, however, were known for their extortion methods on new immigrants.

According to Desmarais, the Buttar thugs “raised extortion almost to an art form. Every victim they come in contact with… [was] scared stiff.” The Buttars had a slight upper hand because they weren’t afraid to do dealings with other ethnic groups. Their group was more external in its operations.

While the Sanghera Crime Group and the Buttar gang waged street battles, three other very different gangs were also fighting over the drug trade. And now we return back to Canada’s policy of multiculturalism. With the Sangheras and the Buttars, the policy allowed the groups to remain contained, internal, and uni-ethnic. The policy had the complete opposite effect on second-generation non-resident Indians born and raised in Canadian schools.


24 Comments

  • Njxkilla
    By
    Njxkilla
    30.12.12 02:55 AM
    I guess these gangs are bad but there nothing compared to Americas streets. But I see them evolveing into the size and violence of American gangs like the bloods crips Latin kings ms-13 etc. But the only reason the candian Indian gangs were able to make more money the the UK gangs is Canada border the US so they can easily run drugs across the border like Mexican gangs do in Texas. I'm from America by the way I see alot of Indians were I live n there just like all others they dress the same act the same and talk the same
  • khalsa singh soorme
    By
    khalsa singh soorme
    21.08.12 07:35 PM
    police should kill each and every member of the gang whosoever is involved in drug traffiking business.
  • punjabi og
    By
    punjabi og
    14.05.12 07:22 AM
    most of these gangs call themselves punjabi gangs not indian gangs they have no ties with india
  • newton-surrey
    By
    newton-surrey
    05.03.12 02:44 AM
    First off I would like to say you people are seriously misinformed and quit frankly have no clues to what your talking about. I'm from surrey bc and was once very much so active in the gang scene. I got out in my early adult life (22). I would just like say it is definatley not about being ghetto or black , not about racism any more (though during early 80s n 70s, yea). Its all about one thing .MoNEY MONEY MONEY. People from all walks of life , whites,blacks hindus , sikhs , muslims, and all work together to make money. Many young indian kids grow up in troubled homes or with single mothers. These kids tend to rebel in there teens and make poor choices. Kids looking for a sense of brotherhood , love and money easily get lured into the drugtrade. After few years there in deep making money and soon realize the game is full of crazy,physco,sociopath,full of greed killers. Now your fully established, been in the game for years, making hundreds of thousands of dollars by age of 24. By this time you have probably caught charges , made enemies and seen your fair share of voilence. By this point , the dope game is all they know and that's there career choice. The dope game and indian involvement in vancouver is immense. In my experiance most kids take that path because of troubled childhood, some because they are broke, some are greedy and come from normal families but wana be gangsters. My whole point is there are a whole bunch of reasons why one joins a gang or drug deals.To say because its about acting black or ghetto your completley wrong and shud shut the fuck up if u don't noe what ur talking about. Its all about making money here, bring in bricks of coke and herione and selling em. Trading marijuana for guns and coke. No1 acts back here u fools. Its all about making money but that comes with its consequences because the dope game is cruel and all I do is help guide youth in positive ways via music and art. Thank you im telling you how it is. If you don't want to believe me I suggest you go visit the southslope or any desi surrey neighbourhood or read the vancouversun. Oh yeah and gangs is a multicultral thing , hindus too . Vancouver organized crime not noe ghetto ass nigga shit, thas toronto last time I checked.
  • Angry Indian
    By
    Angry Indian
    15.01.12 04:34 AM
    @Peter Fletcher. Why do you think these indo canadians think they are black. No offence but why would they even want to be black. They are proud of who they are.

    Blacks aren't the only ones from ghettos. Ghettos are present in all cultures throughout the world.

    Blacks aren't the only people who were enslaved. Indians were too. We face racism from both whites and blacks. Maybe that's where the perceived chips on our shoulders are coming from (making us act ghetto as you call it), not because we want to be black.
  • A Singh
    By
    A Singh
    13.12.11 03:37 PM
    @ J Singh - thanks for the sweeping statements. Just a couple of questions.

    1. Are you suggesting that Hindus do not involve themselves in gang warfare, drugs and serious crime ONLY in Vancouver / Canada, or internationally?

    2. What is the position of Hindus that are Punjabi? Are they Indians or not?
  • HARRY
    By
    HARRY
    13.12.11 12:45 AM
    Mr J Singh

    Next you gone tell us you are not brown and you don't wear turban.
  • J SINGH
    By
    J SINGH
    12.12.11 08:24 PM
    Lets get one thing straight...Sikhs are NOT Indians! Refer to them as Punjabis. We all know Hindus (aka Indians) dont get involved in gang warfare and drugs!
  • Ashish Seth
    By
    Ashish Seth
    11.11.10 11:02 PM
    @ Peter Fletcher

    Almost every visible minority has a group that thinks it's "ghetto" like black people, not just Indians. These aren't a majority in Canada. Just because they think they are ghetto doesn't mean their gangsters. This is a phenomenon of culture.

    @ Positive

    There are plenty of positive stories on this website showing Indians in a good light! We've done profiles on Indians plenty of times! This blog isn't marginalizing Indians. If you went to another "race's" website, you'd have the same phenomenon, a mix of positive and negative stories.

    Do you believe that just because this is an NRI blog, we have to promote Indians? When we choose to do a story, we do it because it's interesting; we don't decide on whether it'll shine a positive or negative light on Indians. We don't have that agenda. And to avoid the issues because they shine a negative light on Indians is just bad journalism. People need to know about these gangs so they can prevent their sons and daughters joining them.

    And as far as gangs go, it's not only Indians lumped into that category. All races have gangs. In Canada, we have multicultural gangs.
  • The NRI
    By
    The NRI
    11.11.10 10:58 PM
    That's exactly what the last guy said! Are you sure you are not the same person?

    Most of our army of volunteers are not trained writers and they are working around day jobs. Reading your comments, I think you underestimate yourself. If you find the time, I am sure you will do justice to a positive Indian / NRI story. If we are not happy with something in our society, we all need to make our own contribution to do something about it, right?

    I feel we have published many positive stories, and there are plenty more coming, so I guess we will have to agree to disagree. As the Editor I made a conscious decision that we cover all aspects of Indian society, communities and culture. Some of it may be negative and I appreciate that this will aggravate some readers. Personally I think it is a healthy approach and ultimately one that leads to real positive change in our communities.
  • Positive?
    By
    Positive?
    11.11.10 10:41 PM
    Yes but I am not a writer and do not unfortunately have the time to put together an article.

    When I say positive, I mean you can show how much the Indians have contributed to society both economically and socially. Not just show Indians as gangsters or artists. What about the fact that Indians are politicians, businesspeople, media presenters, sportspeople? None of that is shown - Indians are marginalised even in this blog (which is supposed to be an NRI blog!).
  • The NRI
    By
    The NRI
    11.11.10 10:27 PM
    @Positive - that's not strictly true. In order to verify this you would need to go through the archives to read the many positive stories about Indians and NRIs. The first ever piece we ran on the Indo-Canadian community focused on the exciting new wave of young Indo-Canadian music artists and how they were creating a stir on Youtube. The Gang features were our attempt to show "the other side of the story" as you put it.

    I welcome your input here, and will repeat the same offer I made to the last person who was very critical of our negative stories. Please come forward and propose some positive stories. I would be happy to consider publishing you. The last guy never got back to me....
  • Positive?
    By
    Positive?
    11.11.10 09:49 PM
    I challenge the Indans or NRIs on this website to actually write something positive about Indians or NRIs! All we see is negativity - there are always two sides to the story.

    Why don't you write about all the successful Indo-canadians (and I don't mean Russell Peters!) and the good that they have done and the things they have contributed to the country.

    Come on, tell the other side of the story, too!
  • A Singh
    By
    A Singh
    11.11.10 02:30 PM
    "...show them how to tell the truth, how to give to people that need, how to earn respect, how to love themselves and everyone else, how to value a nice walk with a friend more than a fancy car."

    @Peter - that is the essence of Sikhism right there. Sadly these "Sikhs" who make up a large part of the Indian criminal fraternity are a long way off from those ideals.
  • Peter Fletcher
    By
    Peter Fletcher
    11.11.10 12:24 PM
    ps,

    from a Canadian perspective this mulitcultural thing has turned into a disaster.

    We have to close our boarders and be way more picky thats all.
  • Peter Fletcher
    By
    Peter Fletcher
    11.11.10 12:21 PM
    Well I am sure you won't post this but I will tell you one thing, that people work hard, all sort of people, without education to get a good life in Canada.

    Most of the good life doesn't come from money though.

    These people join gangs because they are shallow, they want the money and they want respect. Doesn't matter what color you are same reasons.

    The parents are spoiling their young men, the are little brats that don't grow up with the values that made Canada a respectable place full of creative and loving people.

    If you want your kids to not join gangs - show them how to tell the truth, how to give to people that need, how to earn respect, how to love themselves and everyone else, how to value a nice walk with a friend more than a fancy car.

    Sadly, many people from India (yes I have been there) have this need to some how show off and get respect that way, its all Money.

    So ya, it is everywhere in every nation.

    The other problem is Indo-Canadians, or whatever you want to call them, is they think they are black getto people from the USA that had some history of slavery and that magical power with music and words they have.

    But they are not...
  • Ashish Seth
    By
    Ashish Seth
    22.10.10 03:23 PM
    @Amar;

    I didn't mean to get defensive and if it sounds like that, then it is unintentional. I'm not proudly defending Canadian gangs either - I don't know where you see that in my post. As for spitting facts back and forth about UK gangs/Canadian gangs, it is certain that you are defending a point, that being that UK gangs have operated smarter than Canadian ones, which I disagree with. You can't deny that much.

    After reading your post, I'd change it to safer rather than smarter. Yes there are millions of dollars in blue collar crimes. However, you can't judge ingenuity. That depends on the player's skill in his chosen game.
  • A Singh
    By
    A Singh
    22.10.10 02:27 PM
    Ashish, my comment was not meant to put down Canadians. As a law abiding citizen I condemn Indian gangs on both sides of the Atlantic. We should not be proudly defending the record and competency of the Indian criminal fraternity in our respective countries. I was not saying to you "my brother is bigger than your brother":)

    Having said, I stand by the statement in that it has been a smarter move to divert into white collar crime. This pattern has also been repeated by the much more dominant, organised indigenous white English crime groups. In the 1970s their activity of choice was armed robberies. Risks included being shot dead and heavy jail sentences. In the 80s and 90s they moved into the more lucrative drugs business but still risked lengthy jail terms. Now they are operating tax frauds that run into the tens and hundreds of millions. No-one gets shot, and the maximum sentence is 7 years - and that is if they are convicted. These frauds are very complex, involve a web of front companies making it difficult to obtain hard evidence on the principles. Much of the time there is not enough evidence to charge, much less convict.
  • Ashish Seth
    By
    Ashish Seth
    22.10.10 01:31 PM
    @Amar;

    I don't know much about Indian UK gangs, but to say their Canadian counterparts aren't as smart as the ones in UK is a bold statement. The state of competition in the UK is much steeper so its understandable if the Indians couldn't get cuts from the drug industry. However, Canadian gangs like the UN gang, which has a huge Indian membership, has amassed hundreds of millions by profiting from the drug trade. The fact that earned much more money and were able to transport BC-Bud and other substances across the U.S. border via helicopter regularly has to have some ingenuity to it.
  • Daniel
    By
    Daniel
    21.10.10 11:59 PM
    Very interesting article, i like this take on gangs!
  • A Singh
    By
    A Singh
    21.10.10 10:55 PM
    The UK gangs did not develop in the way they did in Vancouver. The main Southall gangs, Holy Smokes and Tootie Nangs, dabbled a little in drugs but it was mainly about petty rivalry and the eventually fizzled out. It's interesting to analyse why this happened relative to how things panned out in Vancouver. Factors include.

    1. There was not any underlying commercial reasons, e.g. drugs for the gangs to thrive.
    2. If they moved into drugs they may have been stamped upon by rival ethnic gangs who had stronger links to source and transit countries and were far more ruthless. Such groups would include the Turks, Kurds, Jamaicans, Chinese, etc.
    3. Most gang members did not need to rely on criminal activity for a half decent life. I would not say they came from middle class backgrounds but a lot of the parents were successful small business people.

    Indians found their niche in less risky criminal activity - credit card fraud, large scale excise and VAT fraud and money laundering. Often these were more lucrative than trading in drugs, more difficult to convict and lower jail sentences if you are lucky. I think the Indians here were a bot smarter than their Canadian counterparts:)
  • Ashish Seth
    By
    Ashish Seth
    21.10.10 09:27 PM
    @gangs and A Singh

    I guess all ethnic gangs start off a with semi-noble Robin Hood purpose and then lose that purpose when racism in their communities dies down. In order for the gangs to survive, they need to put their attention elsewhere. Thanks for illuminating on that; in the article I was focusing only on the recent developments from 2000 up to now. I had heard but didn't know much of about the racism in the UK.

    Most gangs in Vancouver did start off as protection gangs and then eventually turned into protection rackets, which charged their community for it, sometimes in violent and intimidating ways. I wonder if it is like that in the UK as well. Do the gangs in the UK still function as protection rackets for new immigrants?

    @gangs

    I agree when you say that Desis joining gangs in Canada are a minority. This is almost certain for new immigrants, most of whom come here for job prospects. The real problem in Canada is stemming the 2nd generation Canadian-Indians from joining these gangs. For them, it is a growing minority.

    As you'll find out in part 2, these gangs are not offshoots of Indian gangs, most likely for the same reason they came to exist: out of protection for their community. The gangs back home wouldn't care much about these gangs because they had no vested interest. Their ethnic members may have been involved in crime in India. But these gangs have little to no connections to gangs an India. And if they ever did, they've become diluted out and non-existent over time as each gang indulges in the profitable drug trade.
  • A Singh
    By
    A Singh
    21.10.10 05:53 PM
    I think you hit the nail on the head. I had the same understanding that earlier Indian gangs in Vancouver had an almost Robin Hood like reverence and protected the Indian community at a time when racist attacks were common place.

    Being from the UK I can also concur with your point about the gangs here. During the 70s and early 80s "paki-bashing" was occurred in every city across the UK. The first community to react to this were the Punjabis and fought fire with fire. When the right wing National Front party had the gall to stage a big meeting in Southall, they get their asses kicked out of town and had to be protected by the Police. This kicked off the infamous Southall riots. A similar event happened decades earlier with the West Indian community in Notting Hill.
  • gangs
    By
    gangs
    21.10.10 04:42 PM
    Often, these gangs originate in response to racist violence as a form of protection. A similar thing happened in the UK. Racist thugs used to go to areas populated by Indians, for example, and beat them up, destroy their property and generally terrorize them.

    The community decided to stick up for itself against this aggression and formed community protection "gangs". These "gangs" successfuly fought off the racists on many an occasion.

    However, once the racist threat had died down somewhat, it seems that these people got involved more and more in criminal activity. That is how the criminal desi gangs got started in the UK. It is probably a similar situation in Canada.

    Unfortunately, they started off trying to do the right thing but ended up in a very different place.

    I don't think it's true that the immigrants who went to Canada, or anywhere else, had criminal pasts or were already gangsters. They were simply trying to protect themselves against violence and aggression initially.

    Also, it is worth rememebering that the vast majority of desi immigrants to Canada, or anywhere else for that matter, are law-abiding, hard-working citizens who just want to get on in life. These gangs are but a small minority of the desi immigrant population.

Leave a comment