Big Quebec union had big ties to organized crime: inquiry

MONTREAL – Quebec’s most powerful labour union has been rocked by allegations of corruption in its construction division over two days of testimony at a public inquiry.

A co-operative witness has described how Hells Angels sympathizers and men connected to the Italian Mafia infiltrated the province’s powerful FTQ labour union through its construction wing.

Ken Pereira said a senior advisor to the president of the FTQ had complained that the construction arm let organized crime in and now the union leadership was stuck having to deal with the problem.

Pereira testified that union brass were aware that the former head of the construction wing, Jocelyn Dupuis, had ties to Raynald Desjardins, reputedly a top-level figure in the Italian Mafia. Pereira said he talked about it with Henri Masse, a longtime FTQ president who left the organization in 2007.

“(I told him) Jocelyn Dupuis can’t be hanging out with the Hells, he can’t be hanging out with Raynald Desjardins,” Pereira said.

“You can’t be with the Hells Angels in a bar, you can’t be sitting at their table at a boxing match. He’s a director of the largest labour organization. We represent 70,000 members (in the construction wing alone).”

Pereira said that’s when the union president told him he’d been involved in a loan to Ronald Beaulieu, a man identified as a Hells Angels sympathizer.

Beaulieu was close to Jocelyn Dupuis and had already received a loan from the Fonds de solidarite FTQ, the multibillion-dollar labour-sponsored investment fund. The federal government recently cancelled popular tax credits for investing in that fund.

“What I found incredible is that (Masse) said, ‘It was me that brought that file to the Fonds.’ That’s when you understand that Jocelyn gave it to Henri, and Henri brought it to the fund,” Pereira said.

Eventually Pereira, the head of a union local, stole six months worth of receipts and used them to force Dupuis to resign over astronomical expense claims. Dupuis was eventually charged with fraud by provincial police in 2010 and is awaiting trial.

Pereira recounted the chummy relationship Dupuis had with members of organized crime. In a story he’d heard second-hand, he spoke of a confrontation between Dupuis, some biker-gang-linked individuals, and the son of a once-powerful construction boss, Tony Accurso.

Dupuis had access to Accurso’s private box at the Bell Centre. The construction boss’ son, Jimmy, was furious that Dupuis was entertaining Joe Borsellino — a rival businessman — in his family’s arena suite.

Pereira alleged that Jimmy Accurso was roughed up by Hells Angels but the altercation was cut short by another union executive who intervened.

A few weeks later, Borsellino was beaten up at his office.

He recently testified at the inquiry that he didn’t know why.

Pereira said he knew Tony Accurso well, having met as many as 40 times. He was looking to get work for his local members and felt left out by FTQ-Construction because of his problems with Dupuis. Accurso needed Pereira’s members for a venture in Alberta.

On Tuesday, Pereira recounted how he learned from a colleague that organized crime had long been part of the construction union.

According to the former union member, Dupuis was close to Normand (Casper) Ouimet, a Hells Angels member implicated in the construction industry who is now accused of involvement in 22 murders, along with other charges.

“The Hells are with us. The Hells are part of FTQ-(Construction),” Pereira quoted a colleague saying.

“Everyone knew at the FTQ that Jocelyn Dupuis was, or wanted to be, a (gang) ‘hang-around,'” Pereira said. “He liked to show that his family was the FTQ, but that he had another one.”

Looking for more?

Get the Best of Maclean's sent straight to your inbox. Sign up for news, commentary and analysis.