People are generally a bit surprised to find out that there is a Canadian Mafia, primarily because* the two concepts seem so incompatible.
* (I was going to say ‘chiefly’ because, but in the wake of Washington Redskins Name-Scandalgate, I thought better of invoking any word that has a negative association with Indians—except for the word ‘Indians’. I used to be all politically correct and call them stuff like ‘Aboriginal First Nation Native North Americans’ until one time an actual Indian told me that Indians prefer ‘Indians’, and unless he spoke with forked tongue, I have to respect that.)
Anyway, back to the incompatibility of ‘La Cosa Nostra’ and ‘La Notre Truc’:
You have to admit that the things Americans most associate with the Mafia are Italian restaurants, cement shoes, hot goomars, calling gay men ‘fanook’ and Don Corleone. The things Americans most associate with Canada are Tim Horton’s, mucklucks, un-hot women, calling Aboriginal First Nation Native North Americans ‘Nanook’ and Don Cherry.
So, on paper, never the twain shall meet unless it is Shania Twain singing soprano at First Nations PowWow, 1995.
But, as it happens—in part the result of the crackdown on the Mafia in the United States and Sicily, organized crime in Canada is now more clearly defined than ever before. Since 2000, new N’drangheta cells of the Calabrian Mafia have emigrated to Canada after coming under intense pressure by Italian authorities and the Rizzuto family of Montréal is a branch of New York’s infamous Bonnano crime family.
Stir in a bunch of Mohawk Indians and a big communal pot of imported wine, and you have (in my opinion) the sort of circumscribed clusterbleep that is this column’s lifeblood.
Montréal, Mounties, Mohawks, Mafiosi and Malbec…
…and how these five disparate entities have magically come together for our personal ripping and reading pleasure.
Early last month, the Montréal police announced that a sting operation called ‘Operation Malbec’ had uncovered a bizarre tax-evasion scheme being carried out at First Nations Winery, a ‘wine manufacturer’ located in the Kahnawake Mohawk Territory in southern Quebec. According to ‘Find The Company-dot-com’, First Nation Winery was founded in 2006 and has a single employee—one Floyd Lahache, a Canadian junior league hockey player who never quite made it to the NHL—and apparently, ‘manufacture’ wine is precisely what he did.
The way the scam worked was this: Tens of thousands of gallons of cheap Italian plonk was shipped into Canada, sent to the Kahnawake reservation and ‘adulterated’ with some sort of flavoring agent, specifics unknown, then passed off as Canadian-made wine under twenty popular brand labels. These counterfeit wines were available through the SAQ—the Société des alcools du Québec, a government-run liquor chain that is, for the most part, the only place you can get booze in Canada.
As a domestic product, the wine was subject to much less taxation than the imported product it actually was.
150,000 cases were involved and the total amount of the tax fraud seems to have around $14 million loonies—maybe $11 million USD.
Clearly, within a $5 billion Canadian wine industry, that’s but a wee wad of wampum. To me, the real value in this story may be gauged when it is translated into humor dollars, estimated—according to Bank of Canada’s online Cash to Cachinnations Converter—in the low trillions.
Because there is nothing funnier than people who cannot laugh at themselves. And if one were asked to pick the four most humor-impaired ethno-socio groups in the world, I believe they would be, in order: Sicilian gangsters, the Québécois, failed hockey players and Aboriginal First Nation Native North American Indian winemakers.
Add to that the mental image of some puck-munching loser stirring Malbec-flavored fairy dust into the Riunite, and you have the making of a sho’ nuff comedic Defcon 1.
As your humble narrator, I promise to keep you apprised of any breaking developments in this train-wreck of a story, although it is hard to see how it could get weirder than it already is. I suppose there could be some input from earth’s fifth most unfunny faction, Belgian public accountants with leprosy, or some quip from Maggie Trudeau regarding endangered Canadian beavers, but otherwise, we’ll have to allow it play out.
I’ll leave you with an inspiring quote about life among the ofays from John Fire Lame Deer of the Sioux Lakota, 1903-1976:
“Before our white brothers arrived to make us civilized men, we didn’t have any kind of prison. Because of this, we had no delinquents. Without a prison, there can be no delinquents. We had no locks nor keys and therefore among us there were no thieves.”
First, I had to Google it to find out if Sicilians counted as honkies, but apparently they skated by on a technicality. Thus, we may add a new exhibit to the Caucasian Hall of Shame—our corrosively civilizing influence among people who not only had no thieves, but no wiseguys, no tax codes, no SAQ, no Quebec Major Junior Hockey League and—Gitchi Gumee be praised—no wine.
Put that group of ne’er-do-wells together and brother, you’re just asking for trouble.