MONTREAL – Ottawa has decided to dig deeper into the ties between the mob and the construction industry in Canada.
Public Safety Canada has commissioned an “in-depth study of the commercial construction sector within two Canadian jurisdictions, with a specific focus on its vulnerabilities to infiltration by organized crime.”
In a call for tenders released last week, the government said it was seeking a research team with a grasp of both organized crime and the construction industry. It also specified one team member must be bilingual.
The $80,000 research study was assigned by a federal task force looking into organized crime in Canada. It will be tabled in late 2011.
A Public Safety spokesman said the jurisdictions that will be targeted by researchers haven’t yet been selected.
But Stephen Schneider, a criminologist with Saint Mary’s University in Halifax, has a couple of suggestions.
“Generally it’s Ontario, Quebec and B.C. that are most vulnerable,” he said.
Schneider, who has already headed studies on organized crime for the government and the RCMP, said Quebec is an especially likely candidate.
“I think allegations that have been made about the infiltration of criminal groups - including the Mafia – into public sector contracts in Quebec are in fact accurate,” he said.
Charges of collusion and corruption in the province’s construction sector have been swirling for more than a year. In 2009, Quebec provincial police launched 'Operation Hammer' to scrutinize industry.
Still, Premier Jean Charest has refused to call a public inquiry despite pressure from the public and the opposition.
The mob has a history of reaching its tentacles into Canadian construction works.
In the 1970s, Ontario’s Waisberg Commission uncovered mobbed-up construction companies and unions in the province. And in 1975 in Quebec, another commission revealed local labour unions had been infiltrated by criminal gangs.
Canada’s spy service also knows about the ties international organized crime has to the industry.
A report on the CSIS website states one of the top legitimate businesses targeted by the mob are construction companies.