CBC Digital Archives

Heroin traffickers talk

Rum runners. Heroin connections. Ecstasy labs. All part of a long line of criminal dealings in the service of international drug trafficking that smear Canada's squeaky-clean image. As the international community began to regulate intoxicating drugs in the 20th century, drug traffickers forged global routes through Canada in a vicious and wildly lucrative case of supply and demand. CBC Digital Archives looks back at Canada's unique place in this perilous trade as a customer, conduit and producer of illegal drugs.

Thanks to Mafia kingpin Carmen Galante, Canada will soon reclaim its place of former infamy in the Mob's international drug trafficking network known as the French Connection. Host Laurier LaPierre is in New York to talk to former heroin couriers as well as experts on organized crime. He learns that while the trade route from Turkey to New York never really shut down, a few big busts put it on ice for some time. However, with the rise of Galante in the New York underworld, all that is about to change, and Montreal will once again be a key point of entry, transit and storage for Mob heroin.
• The French Connection refers to one of the most famous heroin trafficking routes, dominant from the mid 1950s to the late 1970s. Sicilian mobsters acquired Turkish and Chinese opium and transported it to France (predominately Marseilles) where it was refined into heroin by chemists working for the Corsican Mafia. From France, the heroin was then smuggled into Montreal for transit to New York, where it was distributed throughout the lucrative U.S. market. A 1971 movie by the same name, starring Gene Hackman, dramatized the complex network of smugglers involved in running heroin between France and New York.
  • Carmen Galante was boss of the Bonanno crime family from 1974 to 1979. He first became familiar with Montreal when he was sent there by Joe Bonanno in the mid-1950s to meet with Montreal godfather Vic Cotroni about making the city a major transit point for trafficking narcotics. Cotroni reportedly accepted the offer, and Galante became the key drug boss in town until he was deported in 1955. The ties between the families remained solid, helping to make Cotroni the uncontested boss of the Canadian Mafia until the rise of Vito Rizzuto's rival cocaine smuggling empire in early 1980s Montreal.

Medium: Television
Program: LaPierre
Broadcast Date: March 21, 1977
Guest(s): Richard Bagda, Mr. Maskill, Michel Mentlenenttano, Gilles Poissant
Interviewer: Laurier LaPierre
Duration: 24:34

Last updated: February 8, 2012

Page consulted on December 5, 2013

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