HYPOCRISY permeates Canadian society to such an extent that the image of a pusillanimous politician or government official denying the truth about ethnic crime has left an indelible and sordid stain on our public life. Better dead than racist; or, more accurately, better dead than perceived to be racist. When honest men and women announce that there is indeed an Asian crime problem in Canada they are denounced and derided. How ironic, and how typical, that those who will as a consequence continue to suffer are the vast majority of law-abiding, concerned Asian-Canadians.
In Dragons of Crime, James Dubro's intention is to place the current wave of Asian crime in its appropriate context, to explain where it came from and why it began, to trace its sombre evolution, and to expunge the miasma of ignorance that obscures the subject today. He begins with a glossary of the characters and terms involved - and such a bewildering nomenclature demands this treatment. Tongs, for example, were established as Chinese benevolent associations and were only later infiltrated by organized crime; triads, on the other hand, began as secret political societies but were transformed into what is effectively the Chinese Mafia. As to their size and influence, Dubro dismisses the hyperbole of some journalists who allege that the triads are "fifty times more powerful" than the Mafia; he makes it clear that though these organizations are expanding and dangerous, no triad gangster owns or controls a construction plant, a union, or an industrial company.
Crime was and is the product of poverty. Chinese and Vietnamese immigrants in San Francisco, Vancouver, or Toronto battled their way out of slums and degradation; some of them, explains Dubro, chose an easier and more lucrative route. When this recipe is spiced by host-community racism or rejection, the clash of cultures, and an often closed and insular oriental society, organized crime is inevitable. Dubro's sensitivity towards, and empathy with, the Asian community seems convincingly heartfelt, but he is no wilting forgiver of crime and criminals. As he describes the activities of the Kung Lok Society in Ontario, the Lotus Family and Red Eagles in Vancouver, or the Flying Dragons and Born to Kill gangs in New York, he evinces understanding but also a healthy dose of disgust. The problem may be interesting -but it is still a problem. Dubro believes that the Asian drug trade, extortion rackets, g-ambling, and murders will continue and worsen unless there is a concerted attempt by the police to deal with the oriental gangs at source and at heart. "As a former police intelligence officer told me," he writes,
"While the police keep the worst excesses of the gangs in check, the more skilful, sophisticated criminals are today going about their business unhindered." There is little time left for in-depth intelligence analysis of all of the criminal groups.
James Dubro, who is probably our most accomplished and sophisticated crime writer, has written a book that will go a very long way toward putting matters right.