Bal Buttar in 2001.
Photograph: RCMP Files
It took awhile, more than 10 years in a long-term care facility, after being blinded and paralyzed during an attempt on his life in 2001, but he got what he deserved, that is for sure.
Most people don’t know that not only was Bal Buttar a central character in my film, but that he considered me a friend and confidant. Kim Bolan does not shy away from telling the world what Bal ‘confided’ in her, but the truth is, he was using her for the attention that he long craved. To be honest, I don’t think she ever realized it. Once I got a hold of Bal, he tried to use me too. He thought that my film was going to be about him, and solely him. His thirst of attention was based out of insecurities that are central underlying traits in most gangsters and gangster ‘wannabes’. He often talked about how him being in my film would help sell copies of his book (that I ghost-wrote notes for as he dictated for obvious reasons), and that after the film and book release, he would be welcomed as a motivational speaker at schools. He would talk about how people would learn from his mistakes, yet he continued to make his own. I experienced his temper many times, calling me names, insulting me, and so on. I witnessed his anger towards others when he could not control situations, racial and sexual remarks were often thrown at staff that worked in the care facility. His insecurities skewed his perception of reality, often remarking how ‘bitches’ would still want to fuck him, even in his current state, and that he could have any girl just based on his history.
Poor Bal never fully grasped that he was the butt of all jokes about what it is to be a typical gangster. That his image was portrayed as one of a failure and that his life was nothing but a tragedy. He circumscribed sadness.
The things he confided in me were not of his crimes only, every officer and reporter already knew of his ‘secrets’, but it was his personal life, that no one really knew. His longing to pursue arts as a child, only to have his father disrespect and humiliate him at the mere notion. Or how after everything went awry, he still held hope that his estranged son would one day visit him and call him dad. It were these things that brought me close to Bal. It were these things that made me an important person in his life. I will not deny, that I felt sad for him.
I never went into a visit with him wanting to know his ‘criminal life’, but every day asked of him about ‘him’. The person. Don’t get me wrong, a person so distanced from any emotion that involves trust was not the quickest of people to warm up to a complete stranger. I spent 4-6 hours with Bal for months. Talking to him about ‘him’, about his feelings, his memories, and everything in between. Within a few weeks, the situation had become normal, we were both comfortable with one another. The nursing staff often saw me doing his meal feeds, or grabbing him a drink of water or an extra blanket. We traded jokes, listened to/watched t.v., he even gave me advice on problems I was having with my fiance (ex-fiance now) at the time.
People were worried about me. Saying I was putting myself in danger by getting involved with him. Bal still had many enemies, as he did encompass some secrets that they did not want the world to hear. But it was all worth it for the footage I got of him, in his rawest essence, in his most vulnerable state.
Bal’s scenes in my film were some of the most moving and most disturbing. Some of what he said was so prolific and poetic, yet, some of what he said was just plainly arrogant, stupid, and ignorant.
But that was Bal, a very complex person, with a multitude of insecurities and problems. Bal hurt a lot of people, some of whom were just gangsters and perhaps deserved the fate, but some were just innocent people that got hurt via his rampage through his life.
I believe in karma, and karma will ultimately come to a balance. For a long time it swayed, but just recently, it has tipped closer to being level, than when Bal was alive.
A typical image of Bal Buttar for the rest of his life.
Photograph by: Bill Keay, Vancouver Sun