Two Canadian mayors are imploring the federal government to help create a multi-jurisdictional strategy to combat what they say are rising extortion threats towards businesses in their cities, particularly South Asian ones.
Mayors sent letter to public safety minister this weekFakiha Baig · The Canadian Press
· Posted: Jan 16, 2024 10:08 PM EST | Last Updated: January 17
Two Canadian mayors want the federal government to help create a strategy to combat what they say are rising extortion threats towards businesses in their cities. (Arlyn McAdorey/The Canadian Press)Two Canadian mayors are imploring the federal government to help create a multi-jurisdictional strategy to combat what they say are rising extortion threats towards businesses in their cities, particularly South Asian ones.
In a letter sent to the federal minister of public safety this week, the mayors of Brampton, Ont., and Surrey, B.C., say they are deeply concerned for their communities due to the threats.
“These incidents have instilled fear in our communities and highlight the urgent need for a co-ordinated response involving multiple jurisdictions,” said the letter signed by Brampton Mayor Patrick Brown and Surrey Mayor Brenda Locke.
“We urge your ministry to recognize the inter-jurisdictional nature of these threats and to spearhead a co-ordinated response that ensures the safety and security of all affected communities across Canada.”
In an interview Wednesday with CBC Radio’s Metro Morning, Peel police chief Nishan Duraiappah said the number of extortion threats in the region went from nine in December to 20 in January. He said six of those incidents have been linked to violence such as shooting at business property.
It’s a trend “we’ve never seen before,” Duraiappah said.
“Threats of violence have become contagious such that fear is spread tremendously throughout the community.”
He said police are looking into transnational links to the incidents under investigation.
Brampton Mayor Patrick Brown is pictured here. (City of Brampton)The mayors said recent reports from their provinces have confirmed links between the extortion attempts and violent acts, including shootings, and police services have acknowledged the gravity of the situation.
“It is imperative the federal government, through your ministry, takes a leading role in facilitating this collaboration,” the mayors wrote in their letter.
“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.”
An increasing number of South Asian business owners have been contacting the mayor’s office expressing safety concerns, Brown told CBC Toronto on Wednesday.
“Their sense of safety has been pierced,” he said.
Brown said he finds it alarming that “we’re facing the criminal threat from outside our borders.”
LISTEN | Chief Nishan Duraiappah on how Peel police are tackling extortion in the South Asian business community:
Metro Morning7:51Chief Nishan Duraiappah on how Peel police are tackling extortion in the South Asian business community
Nishan Duraiappah is the Police Chief in Peel Region.
A spokesperson for the federal public safety minister said the RCMP is working with local police forces on the issue.
“These threats of extortion are deeply concerning,” Jean-Sebastien Comeau wrote in a statement. “If Canadians suspect they are the target of an extortion attempt, they should report it immediately to their local police force.”
Brown said that’s not enough.
“I’d like to hear from the public safety minister that they have spoken to their counterparts in India, that the government of Canada has requested the full cooperation of law enforcement agencies there to make sure that we can apprehend the individuals behind these calls,” he said.
Last month, Peel Regional Police, whose jurisdiction includes Brampton, said it had launched a task force to look into a “disturbing trend” of extortion threats, primarily targeted towards the South Asian business community.
Surrey Mayor Brenda Locke is pictured here. (Justine Boulin/CBC)”This has caused grave safety and security concerns among our community members,” Duraiappah wrote in a December statement. “Terrorizing our residents will not be tolerated.”
Police said victims are contacted through various social media platforms and demands for money allegedly are made under threats of violence. Duraiappah said financial demands are often made in Canadian dollars or Indian rupees.
“Suspects … often know the victim’s name, phone number, address and business information,” the force said.
In one of Peel’s recent extortion cases, police officers arrested a 23-year-old man from Abbotsford, B.C., in early December for allegedly shooting multiple times at a business in Brampton.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Fakiha Baig is a journalist with the Canadian Press.
With files from Saloni Bhugra and CBC Radio’s Metro Morning.