Pragmatic Approach to the Triads Issue: Dissertation Proposal

The Chinese emigration to Canada and other countries had commenced in the later half of the 19th century and continues to this day. Initially, the Chinese Canadians community in all these nations maintained an inward looking, China centric attitude and tended to retain affiliations with relatives, politics and life in mainland China (Lary 1998). During the early part of the 20th century, the status quo remained; the scale of political activity and keenness to assimilate in to the Canadian mainstream was limited.

This was also facilitated to a large extent by the openly hostile Chinese Immigration (Exclusion) Act of 1923 which denied voting rights to Chinese Canadians. The change in this situation was provoked by two unrelated and yet significant changes in Chinese Canadian history. First, the repeal of the Chinese Immigration (Exclusion) Act which provided easier emigration for relatives of the Chinese Canadian and led to a friendlier ambience. Secondly, the fall of China to the Communists in 1949 which led to a deep sense of dismay and eliminated all sympathy for the government which was perceived to be unjust and hostile.

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The 70s witnessed a surge in political activism led by highly educated, politically aware and articulate Chinese Canadian youth who rallied the community over the treatment of Chinese Canadians at earlier stages in their history. The vociferous protests against injustice and call for the rectification of historical wrongs was combined with an onslaught against the stereotyped negative projection of Chinese Canadians in the media and for compensating losses suffered by individual Chinese Canadians who had to pay head tax till the repeal of the Chinese Immigration (Exclusion) Act.

The Chinese Canadians entered the political scene in full measure during the 1980s and the process culminated with the shock victory of Raymond Chan during the 1992 election while representing the Liberals for Vancouver, which has a Chinese Canadian population of 10 %. As events stand today, the Chinese Canadian is fully assimilated in to the mainstream Canadian life and though proud of his Chinese origins believes in and has faith in the democratic values and traditions of Canada.

The existing pride of place has been achieved by the dint of hard work of the preceeding generations and the ongoing contribution by the successive generations. The Chinese Canadian is today valued for his enterprise, hardworking attitude, dedication and single minded purpose to work. The Triads Unfortunately, the rise in economic progress and political prominence by the Chinese Canadian community has been accompanied by the commensurate growth of an unpleasant facet of Chinese society: “The Triads”.

The historical antecedents of the Triads are a matter of pride and honor and they had well defined political objectives at the time of conception (Baoqi and Murray 1994). However, the Triads in their present form are devoid of any moral or political justification. Triads today represents the name of a gang specializing in a whole range of criminal activities including extortion, protection, gambling, intimidation, blackmail and are frequently blamed for narcotics trade, human trafficking and fraud (Overholt 1995).

Discriminating Identities It is important to discriminate between the Triad and non Triad gangs, who indulge in criminal activities as there is a marked difference in the objectives, methods, repercussions, victims and impact on security and economic stability of various host countries and on the victims . The past decade is witness to the alarmingly increasing involvement of ethnic Chinese in international organized crime including drug trafficking, human smuggling, and economic crimes like credit card fraud, counterfeiting, and money laundering.

However, it must be considered that the criminals comprising these gangs may not be related to any triad organization at all. In fact, organized crime at the international level is devoid of any demarcated gang boundaries and can be executed by any group of committed people who have the necessary wherewithal in terms of wealth, infrastructure, a high degree of coordination; and these type of actions are usually committed by ethnic Chinese groups hailing from Singapore, Malaysia, Vietnam, Taiwan and, of late, mainland China.

Research conducted by Chu has used the examples of drug trafficking and human smuggling to show that behind these operations there are always international business entrepreneurs, who may employ triad or other gang members to undertake some risky jobs (2000). Crimes related to money laundering and economic frauds can only be committed by highly resourceful professionals like bankers accountants and the like (Berdal and Monica 2000).

This contention is further corroborated by a Canadian Security Intelligence Services (CSIS) report of July 2000, which highlights the involvement of Non Triad gangs like the BCB in drug trafficking, migrant smuggling and large-scale credit card forgery and fraud. The report also mentions the emergence of Vietnamese Chinese gangs as the more potent force in international criminal activities (CSIR 2000).

Similarly, a study report of the FBI (Ning-Ning Mahlmann 1999) conducted on the various Chinese criminal enterprises highlights the distinguishing factors between the activities of the Triad gangs and the Non Triad gangs composed of ethnic Chinese members of various nationalities. With minor variations, the conclusions of the study report are equally applicable to the criminal activities profile vis-a-vis various triad gangs operating in Canada.

The report yet again serves to highlight the fact that the operations of the Triad gangs are limited to the activities conducted within their communities and that there is an excessive reliance on exploiting the myth pertaining to the Triads rather than actual initiation of violence. Thus it is the international criminal organizations which are actually responsible for the execution of the major crimes like narcotics trade, human trafficking and such like activities.

The Triads however are identified by the media and the law enforcing agencies in all the affected countries as the chief perpetrators. The adverse publicity generated in the media due to the frequent arrests of the ethnic Chinese elements in the various criminal activities has led to a large part of the blame falling on the Triads. Consequently, it also places the Chinese Canadian community in poor light and the literature in the media and in the published texts emphasizing this aspect has proliferated.

This form of clubbing the Triads with the activities of the international organizations, howsoever, inadvertently committed is fraught with the possibility of miscarriage of justice and leads to the image of a whole community being tarnished. At the Law enforcing levels, it leads to the prejudiced execution of legal and judicial aspects wherein the individual is presumed to be guilty even before proving otherwise, in the event of the parties concerned being Chinese. Theoretical Framework

Literature Overview Due to the inherent factors like secrecy, the need for discretion by the various gangs and the fear of Triads, there has been negligible research done on this subject. Consequently there is very little literary evidence available on the Triads. The two published books available are spaced 40 years apart, and both of them deal with Hong Kong Triads. “The Triads as Business” by Yiu Kong Chu is the only relevant book/literature which deals in depth with the Triad issue.

Although, the book focuses on the Hong Kong Triads, it does provide a base to commence with. It provides an in depth and elaborates the functioning and other related aspects of the Triads. The only other book was written in 1960 by W. P. Morgan who wrote “Triad Societies in Hong Kong” which in view of the vintage is unlikely to be of any relevance. There exists no study conducted on the Canadian Triad gangs and hence the research will perforce have to depend upon the secondary sources in conjunction with a survey to be conducted on a sample population.

The working data can be procured from the CSIS database and the law enforcement authorities of Vancouver. This data will assist in forming an appropriate picture of the history and the profile of the various Triad groups active in Canada. Method of Conducting the Research Analysis of the data procured from the above sources will then have to be studied in conjunction with the results of interviewing four sets of people (1) Active members of Triad Gangs (2) Active members of non-Triad gangs. 3) Victims and customers of Triads (4) Law enforcement Officers. A study of the questionnaires and the interviews of a reasonably large sample amongst the above four groups would help to study the core activities of the Triad and Non Triad groups. Thus it would conclusively establish that the Triads are wrongly being categorized with the more dangerous and better organized international gangs.