Waterfront Warlord

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Published by: Seal Books
Release Date: February 1, 1988
Pages: 195
ISBN13: 978-0770422196


The shocking true story of Canada’s most powerful and feared labour leader. His supporters called him a tough and effective leader; his opponents called him a vicious thug. For nearly two decades, Hal C. Banks ruled the nation’s waterfronts with an iron fist. As head of the communist-busting Seafarers’ International Union, he carved out his fiefdom with a combination of intimidation, blacklisting and brutality. Now, award-winning investigative reporter Peter Edwards brings the complete, shocking story of Hal C. Banks to print for the first time.

From ex-con on the San Francisco waterfront to Canada’s most powerful labour boss – with influence that reached onto Parliament Hill itself – here is the unexpurgated truth behind the myths of a larger-than-life warlord whose name still incites fear and controversy even years after his death… and whose ability to break the law and get away with it is an outrageous and fascinating testament of evil in our time. In Waterfront Warlord, Peter Edwards exposes:

  • The crimes Banks left behind in the United States – including charges of assault, kidnapping and murder
  • The flamboyant lifestyle – white Cadillacs, yachts, tailor-made suits – bought with union money
  • The friends in power who helped him take control – judges, politicians, big businessmen
  • The fortress-like Montreal office complete with a spy system

– the flight that kept him free

Waterfront Warlord was a national bestseller.


“Fast-paced, highly readable… it is popular history at its engaging best.”
—The Toronto Star

“A well-written, gripping account of a ruthless man.”
—The Windsor Star

“A story that needs to be told and Edwards tells it very well.”
—Bob White, then President of the Canadian Auto Workers


Hal Banks had no unifying philosophy of life, but rather an overpowering basic urge: to seize power and maintain it. He was drawn to power like a shark is drawn to blood and, like a shark, Banks only moved forward.

To Banks, power meant control. His desk and swivel chair were mounted high on a concrete dias, exaggerating both the size of the already-imposing Banks and the insignificance of his guests. Conversely, the legs of the guest chairs were considerably shorter than normal. Later he would install a dome in a false ceiling above his desk that made his gravelly baritone sound even more menacing.

Beside the phone was a well-polished brass console with an array of buttons. With it, Banks boasted, he could monitor activities in any room in the building. Other buttons allowed him to lock the doors en route to his office and stop his private elevator between floors. Typically, a guest who had angered Banks might find himself sharing an elevator with union enforcers. By the time the elevator reached street level, the visitor would have been reminded – painfully – that he hadn’t been smart.