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This article was published 4/11/2011 (3249 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.
The Long, Bloody Reign of Canada's Sicilian Clan
By Andre Cedilot and Andre Noel,
Translated from the French by
Random House, 533 pages, $33
Thugs and buffoons they may be, but Canadian Mafia members and their associates exert unexpected influence in the nation's social, economic and political matters, this frightening book asserts.
Decades of undercover police work in Quebec and Ontario have sent many leading mobsters to jail, particularly in a big roundup in 2006. Their volatile comrades have dispatched many others to the grave.
But this detailed and convincing volume demonstrates that gangsters from traditional Italian crime families still have their hands on many daily activities, some of them legal, more of them illegal.
Quebec journalists Andre Cedilot and Andre Noel outline the blood-soaked history of the Mafia from its origins in early 19th century Sicily.
Mafia Inc. was a hit (the good kind) in Quebec when it was published in French a year ago.
It focuses on the Rizzuto family and its associates the Caruanas and the Cuntreras. This edition updates the action to include the 2010 slaying of Nicolo Rizzuto Sr., 86, shot while dining at home with his family.
The fluid and idiomatic English translation by Michael Gilson propels the story through the web of family and criminal connections that the authors admit is dizzying.
The book is careful not to tar all Canadians of Italian origin with the Mafia brush, but it does not shrink from calling out the guilty minority.
These folks may not be household names in most of Canada, but they should be.
Not only have they run gambling and prostitution and imported stupefying amounts of illegal drugs into Canada, but they have extended their influence to elected civic and provincial governments, and to Liberal and Conservative federal governments through bribery and other "illustrious relations."
Although Mafia Inc. clearly sides with the police against the bad guys and also sometimes against their foot-dragging political masters, it is refreshingly free of the cop-talk that deadens many true-crime books.
The book quotes extensively from court documents and, chillingly, from wiretaps of the Mafiosi themselves.
The writing is frequently spirited.
When mobster Paolo Violi declines to accept his boss's advice to step aside, the authors comment, "His hubris and sense of Mafia honour apparently trumped his will to live."
Describing one of the many goodfellas who sport Damon Runyon-style monikers, they write, "The 'Discount Coffin Guy' was built like a linebacker but had scarcely more judgment than a teenager, and working closely with the powerful Montreal godfather gave him a sense of impunity."
To guide readers the book includes not only an index but a chronology, glossary and bibliography.
Four pages of Mafia family trees include such notations as "is the cousin and became the son-in-law of ..." and "married to his cousin."
The authors' acknowledgements section thanks colleagues at the Montreal newspaper La Presse and contains a curious statement: "We trust that none of them will be too taken aback when they notice the many passages in the book that are directly inspired by their writings."
Bearing out the book's assertions of Mafia influence, the Quebec government has just launched a public inquiry into corrupt practices in the construction industry and the awarding of public contracts.
As if to corroborate the authors' accusation that Canadian authorities have displayed "incomprehensible indolence" toward the true nature of the Mafia, Premier Jean Charest resisted granting this commission subpoena powers until public protests shamed him into doing so.
Mafia Inc. should be the first exhibit at this inquiry.
Duncan McMonagle teaches journalism at Red River College and writes the Information Tsunami blog at http://duncanmcm.blogspot.com. Follow him on Twitter @dmcmonagle.
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