WHAT’S HAPPENING IN B.C. IS CRIMINAL. The BCGEU (British Columbia Government and Service Employees Union) wants to know exactly how criminal. They want a public inquiry to find out.
The union recently added their voice to a growing demand that the government set up a public inquiry to expose how runaway criminal activity is damaging everyday life in B.C.
Too much dirty money seems to be at the root of it all. Drug trafficking and organized money laundering create massive profits. Buying property is the best way to hide and “clean” those profits. But, all that money in play drives the price of property higher and higher. Affordable housing disappears. Homelessness increases. Public service workers get pushed close to the edge.
A one bedroom apartment in Vancouver, Burnaby, Victoria and Kelowna costs between $1,300 and $2,200 on average. A growing number of full-time workers can no longer afford to live in the city where they work.
Equally damaging are the ripple effects from the drug trade. BCGEU notes that workers from librarians to correction officers have been forced to act as first responders in the opioid crisis.
None of this should be happening, says BCGEU president Stephanie Smith. Why it all is, and what can be done about it, are questions only a public inquiry can answer.
“British Columbians deserve answers so that those responsible can be held accountable; but also so we can take meaningful action to safeguard our communities from further harm.”
Strong public approval
The majority of the public agrees. According to a Research Co. poll, 77 percent of BC residents support calling a public inquiry into the role of organized crime in the opioid crisis and the property price boom.
In addition, 80 percent said they wanted an anti-corruption office in the province.
“While there is definitely some satisfaction with the fact that the provincial government is discussing money laundering in the open, voters of all political stripes are eager to see more action on this file,” said Mario Canseco, president of Research Co.
He says there is “nearly universal support for the eventual establishment of an anti-corruption commission in British Columbia.
$20 an hour does not make ends meet
Last October, the Portland Hotel Society, a major social housing non-profit in Vancouver, revealed that it was wrestling with staff shortages because its workers couldn’t afford to live in the city. Some of the organization’s employees have been forced to live in their cars, even though Portland pays its workers at least the Vancouver living wage of $20.91 an hour.
The Union Gospel Mission non-profit, which provides social services and drug support in the Downtown Eastside, has been unable to hire enough custodians, maintenance workers, and addiction councillors due to exorbitant housing costs over the past two years.
Evidence of the major role played by criminal networks in helping create this social crisis is growing. Last year, Global News published a study claiming that $5 billion worth of property transactions in Vancouver since 2012 have been financed by drug money.
In a secret study for the police that was leaked to the press, researchers found that organized crime networks funneled $1 billion through the property market. Of 1,200 purchases of houses between $3 million and $35 million, 10 percent were financed by criminal funds.
Like Netflix only real
“You know that Netflix show Ozark, about laundering drug money?” an anonymous expert told Global News. “I always think that if those characters came up to Vancouver, they could launder all their cash in just one day.”
The authorities pointed out that they would have probably uncovered even more money laundering if they had reviewed property transactions between $1 million and $3 million. However, they didn’t have the resources to do so. This is just one of the many things that a full public inquiry could accomplish.
The police report revealed that members of one of the strongest criminal networks included industrialists, gangsters, investors, and corrupt officials from China. In addition to drug trafficking, they generated money from prostitution, casino money laundering, and financial crimes.
Supporters of an inquiry want it to use the Charbonneau Anti-Corruption Commission in Quebec as a model. The revelations uncovered by the commission led to the resignation of two mayors and the 2013 arrest of Montreal interim mayor Michael Applebaum for his role in the illegal awarding of public sector contracts.
If you want to support the BCGEU’s campaign for a public inquiry into the dark heart organized crime, opioids, and money laundering in B.C. you can sign their petition here.
This article was originally published by The Canadian Labour Institute.
Reprinted with permission for CALM Members use.