For decades, Canada has been home to several prominent Italian-Canadian mafia families.
Their origins stem from the mid-1900s, when the country was rapidly growing, making it a natural landing spot for immigrants from Europe.
Being in close proximity to New York, where the mafia was already established, and having shipping ports that provided easy access to international markets, the provinces of Ontario and Quebec made the perfect destinations for mobsters to reign.
The Cotroni Family
From the 1950s to the 1980s, the Cotroni family was one of Montreal’s most prominent crime families, led by mob boss Vincenzo Cotroni.
When an influential member of New York’s Bonanno family came to Montreal in 1953, the Brooklyn gangster planned to make Montreal a pivotal location in importing narcotics from overseas for distribution across America.
Befriending the Bonannos, Vincenzo ‘Vic’ Cotroni, also known as ‘The Egg,’ assumed the position of heading the Montreal drug trafficking trade and established the first Italian crime syndicate in the city.
Alongside his brothers Guiseppe or ‘Pep’ and Frank, Cotroni ruled over most of southern Quebec and Ontario.
In the mid-1970s, a violent power struggle broke out between the Calabrian and Sicilian factions of the Cotroni organization—the Cotronis versus the Rizzutos.
Once one of the most powerful crime families in the country, the great Cotroni empire eventually fell. By the 1980s, the Rizzuto family had taken their place.
Fun fact: In 1963, Vic Cotroni was dubbed “The Godfather of Montreal” by Maclean’s, for which he sued for $1.25 million.
The Rizzuto Family
Italian immigrant Nicolo Rizzuto began his career in the Montreal mafia as an associate of the Cotronis. But after a bloody turf war in the 1980s, the Rizzutos emerged victorious.
Nicolo’s son, Vito, would transform the family business from a nationwide criminal organization into a global organized crime empire worth hundreds of millions of dollars.
In 2004, Vito was extradited to the U.S. and sentenced to 10 years in prison. While imprisoned, many of his family members and associates were murdered by enemies, including his father, Nicolo Rizzuto Sr.
To this day, the Rizzuto family continues their revenge campaign. For the past decade, a mob war has engulfed the Montreal underworld, having claimed over 100 lives so far.
According to sources, the Rizzuto organization is now head by Vito’s son, Leonardo Rizzuto.
Fun fact: Nicolo Rizzuto Sr. was murdered while eating dinner with his wife and daughter when a sniper’s bullet punched through two layers of glass in the patio doors of his Montreal mansion.
The Luppino Family
Giacomo Luppino, or ‘Don Giacomo,’ immigrated to Canada with his wife and 10 children in 1955. He went on to head one of Hamilton’s three centralized mafia organizations.
In the early 1960s, Luppino was the underboss of the Hamilton faction of Magaddino’s Buffalo crime family. Magaddino’s syndicate supplied drugs to Hamilton and Guelph, which supplied drugs to Toronto.
Giacomo’s sons, Vincenzo, Antonio, Rocco, Natale and John, and his grandsons, would later follow in his footsteps.
His sons Rocco and Natale are considered to be senior dons of the organization today.
Fun fact: Giacomo Luppino was a founding member of Canada’s Camera di Controllo, a governing body made up of highly respected dons that settle mafia disputes.
The Papalia Family
The son of Italian immigrants, Johnny Papalia, also known as ‘Pops,’ ‘The Enforcer’ and ‘The Godfather of Hamilton,’ was don of the second of Hamilton’s three centralized mafia organizations.
After working under established Montreal mobsters in heroin trafficking in the 1950s, Papalia returned to Hamilton and began running his own criminal operations.
His brothers Frank, Rocco and Dominic and half-brothers Joseph and Angelo all worked alongside him.
By the 1960s, Papalia had earned a reputation from the French Connection, a drug-smuggling operation where opioids were smuggled from the Middle East to France and then into Canada and the U.S.
Papalia allegedly smuggled cocaine through older Italian immigrants by hiding narcotics in false-bottomed suitcases for them to carry.
On May 31, 1997, Papalia was shot to death at the age of 73 by a hitman who had been ordered to kill him by Pat and Angelo Musitano, the brothers at the head of the Musitano family who owed Papalia $250,000.
Fun fact: Johnny Papalia was not given a full funeral mass by the Catholic Church due to his criminal history.
The Musitano Family
The oldest of Hamilton’s three mafia families, the Musitano family’s origins in Canada date back to 1937, when Angelo Musitano, also known as the ‘Beast of Delianuova,’ fled illegally from Italy.
Angelo’s two nephews, Anthony and Dominic Musitano followed into the life of crime.
Dominic led the family until his death. His sons, Pasquale ‘Pat’ and Angelo ‘Ang’ Musitano, would take over the family’s operations.
By 1992, the Hamilton-Wentworth Police estimated that the family earned $14 million per year through various aspects of illegal gaming.
In 2000, the Musitano brothers were arrested and sentenced to prison for the murder of Johnny Papalia. They were released in 2006.
Fun fact: The ‘Beast of Delianuova’ fled Italy illegally after killing his sister, believing she had disgraced the family by becoming pregnant out of wedlock.
The Cuntrera-Caruana Clan
The Cuntrera and Caruana families are two Italian families closely linked through several marriages, now widely referred to as one—the Cuntrera-Caruana mafia clan.
In the 1950s, many members of the clan relocated from Sicily to Canada after a crackdown on the mafia by Italian police.
The Cuntreras and Caruanas began working with Nicolo and Vito Rizzuto in drug trafficking.
The clan was also involved in the French Connection and the Pizza Connection, an operation where a number of independently owned pizza parlours were used to distribute drugs.
In 2008, Alfonso Caruana, boss of the family in Canada, was extradited to Italy for his role in running a multi-billion dollar cocaine trafficking and money-laundering empire.
Fun fact: When referring to mobster Alfonso Caruana, RCMP Inspector Ben Soave once said, “If organized crime were a hockey game, Mr. Caruana would be [Wayne] Gretzky.”