February 2024 \ Diaspora News \ Cover Story - Indian Diaspora

Toronto: Raising concerns over an “alarming” escalation of extortion threats against Indian and South Asian business communities, mayors in the Canadian towns of Brampton and Surrey have urged the government to take swift action to root out the menace. Brampton Mayor Patrick Brown and his counterpart from Surrey Brenda Locke expressed “deep concern” over a growing number of “extortion attempts and violent acts, including shootings” in January in a letter addressed to Canada’s Public Safety Minister Dominic LeBlanc. “This alarming development underscores the severity and widespread nature of these threats, which are predominantly targeting members of the South Asian business community,” the letter read.

The mayors said that the Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP) and local police departments, including Peel Regional Police, “have acknowledged the gravity of the situation”. According to CP24 news channel, Peel police recently launched the Extortion Investigative Task Force, which is now probing the circumstances surrounding 16 incidents of extortion. The suspects often know the name of the victim as well as their phone number, address, and business information, and contact them through social media, and demands for money allegedly are made under threats of violence, police said. The mayors urged the government to prioritize the issue and engage with local and provincial authorities, along with necessary federal agencies, to develop a “comprehensive strategy to address these extortion threats”.

“The complexity and inter-jurisdictional nature of these crimes necessitate a more comprehensive strategy involving provincial and federal authorities. It is imperative the federal government, through your Ministry, takes a leading role in facilitating this collaboration,” the letter continued. “By leveraging the resources and intelligence capabilities of the RCMP, in concert with local law enforcement agencies, we can formulate a robust and unified approach to tackle this issue.”

The mayors noted that the incidents have “instilled fear” in their respective communities, with Brown telling CP24 that he wants the Justin Trudeau government to send a clear message that these incidents will not be tolerated. On January 3, police in Edmonton, Alberta, announced that they’re investigating 18 extortion incidents in the region that they believe are linked to a series of arson and drive-by shootings. They also reported six arrests connected to extortion, shootings, and arson, which included Parminder Singh, 20, who remains in custody for 12 firearms-related charges.

Hassan Dembil (18), Manav Heer (18), Ravinder Sandu (19), were also charged but have been released as of now. A police “Law Enforcement Only” bulletin, which was leaked late in December 2023, said the Hindi-speaking suspects use WhatsApp messaging service to contact victims and threaten violence after “demanding large quantities of currency”, the Global News reported.

The bulletin said the suspects are believed to be tied to a gang based in India headed by gangster Lawrence Bishnoi, and the scheme targets “affluent members of the South Asian community”. In the early hours of December 27, 2023 as many as 14 shots were fired at the residence of a Hindu temple’s head’s son in British Columbia.

Satish Kumar, president of Lakshmi Narayan Mandir in Surrey, said he and his family members haven’t received any extortion calls or letters, but the escalating violence has people on edge. “The community is very shaken right now,” Kumar told Global News.

Tags: Canada