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Extortion threats primarily targeting South Asians prompt Brampton, Surrey mayors to call on feds for help

Two Canadian mayors are imploring the federal government to help create a multi-jurisdictional strategy to combat what they say are rising extortion threats towards businesses in their cities, particularly South Asian ones.

In a letter sent to the federal minister of public safety this week, the mayors of Brampton, Ont., and Surrey, B.C., say they are deeply concerned for their communities due to the threats.

“These incidents have instilled fear in our communities and highlight the urgent need for a co-ordinated response involving multiple jurisdictions,” said the letter signed by Brampton Mayor Patrick Brown and Surrey Mayor Brenda Locke.

“We urge your ministry to recognize the inter-jurisdictional nature of these threats and to spearhead a co-ordinated response that ensures the safety and security of all affected communities across Canada.”

The mayors said recent reports from their provinces have confirmed links between the extortion attempts and violent acts, including shootings, and police services have acknowledged the gravity of the situation.

Brampton Mayor Patrick Brown
Brampton Mayor Patrick Brown is pictured here. (City of Brampton)

“It is imperative the federal government, through your ministry, takes a leading role in facilitating this collaboration,” the mayors wrote in their letter.

“By leveraging the resources and intelligence capabilities of the RCMP, in concert with local law enforcement agencies, we can formulate a robust and unified approach to tackle this issue.”

A spokesperson for the federal public safety minister said the RCMP is working with local police forces on the issue.

“These threats of extortion are deeply concerning,” Jean-Sebastien Comeau wrote in a statement. “If Canadians suspect they are the target of an extortion attempt, they should report it immediately to their local police force.”

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Surrey Mayor Brenda Locke is pictured here. (Justine Boulin/CBC)

Last month, Peel Regional Police, whose jurisdiction includes Brampton, said it had launched a task force to look into a “disturbing trend” of extortion threats, primarily targeted towards the South Asian business community.

“This has caused grave safety and security concerns among our community members,” Peel police Chief Nishan Duraiappah wrote in a December statement. “Terrorizing our residents will not be tolerated.”

Police said victims are contacted through various social media platforms and demands for money allegedly are made under threats of violence, which have occurred in some cases.

“Suspects … often know the victim’s name, phone number, address and business information,” the force said.

In one of Peel’s recent extortion cases, police officers arrested a 23-year-old man from Abbotsford, B.C., in early December for allegedly shooting multiple times at a business in Brampton.
 

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