Manitoba is the first jurisdiction in North America to declare the Hells Angels as a criminal organization, Justice Minister Andrew Swan said today.
But the designation only affects provincial crimes against gang members, not federal laws like gun, drug and violent crimes.
Swan said by designation the Hells Angels as the first criminal outfit under the province’s schedule of criminal organizations, it allows the Crown to prosecute gang members and associates without the delay of calling additional evidence that the outlaw biker club is a criminal organization.
The province also says as a result, it will reduce the time spent by police, justice officials and the courts to determine that groups are criminal organizations. This designation now applies to all provincial laws such as the Safer Communities and Neighbourhoods Act, the Fortified Buildings Act and the Criminal Property Forfeiture Act, which has been used to seize the Hells Angels clubhouse on Scotia Street. That matter remains before the courts.
Swan said the hope is Ottawa follows suite, meaning a federal designation will allow the Crown to prosecute gang members on criminal code and drug offences — offences gang members are commonly charged with and result in prison time.
About the decision
- The Hells Angels Motorcycle Club is the largest outlaw motorcycle gang in the world, with over 5,000 members in over 400 chapters in more than 40 countries.
- Canada has 35 chapters.
- Hells Angels rules require chapters to have a minimum of six members on the street without any court-imposed conditions. Several Canadian chapters are inactive due to the majority of their members being incarcerated. The Winnipeg chapter is active despite a number of prosecutions against members and associates over the years.
Why the gang fits the bill as a criminal organization:
- Evidence from numerous Canadian trials shows the Hells Angels are structured to ensure conformity to their rules, prevent infiltration by rivals and police and to maintain an effective criminal network. Courts have found that chapters are not independent entities but instead conform to rules and work collectively to meet the broader objectives.
- Membership in the Hells Angels consists of full patch members, prospective members, hang-arounds, official friends, and associates.
- Full-patch members seek to insulate themselves from police and rivals by using subordinate members and associate gangs to commit crimes and protect gang assets. Membership is an incremental process over years to test a recruit's loyalty and prevent infiltration by police or rival gang members. Internal Hells Angels records show that photos and information about potential new members are distributed across the country to try to identify unwanted members.
- The colours of the Hells Angels are formed by the term "Hells Angels," the club’s death head logo and red and white lettering. These items have been trademarked in numerous countries. Only a full-patch member can wear the Hells Angels logo and vote on club issues and strategies. Courts have noted the "power of the patch" worn by the Hells Angels, since it has been used to intimidate and create fear from the public and gang rivals. As a result, some courts have declared items displaying these identifying colours to be forfeited as offence-related property.
- Clubhouses are the base for each Hells Angels chapter. Courts have found they are generally fortified and equipped with security measures. Courts have ordered Hells Angels clubhouses forfeited as instruments or proceeds of crime in Ontario (Toronto, Thunder Bay and Oshawa), Halifax and Quebec. Several other clubhouses, including one in Winnipeg, have been seized pending criminal property forfeiture applications. Manitoba and Saskatchewan have also used provincial laws to order the removal of fortifications from Hells Angels clubhouses as they are a public safety threat.
- Hells Angels and their associate groups have been found with counter-surveillance equipment designed to detect police listening devices, sensitive justice documents on gang rivals and information about police investigators.
- The Hells Angels use subordinate "puppet" criminal organizations to commit crimes and advance their interests. This also helps to identify potential new members of the Hells Angels. For example, several members of one of the Manitoba Hells Angels’ support clubs, the Zig Zag Crew, have moved up to become full members. Gang wars in Quebec, Manitoba and Ontario have highlighted the roles played by these associate groups. Manitoba’s Zig Zag Crew and Redlined gangs have been convicted for drug and other crimes in support of the Hells Angels.
- Courts in Quebec, Ontario and Manitoba have found the Hells Angels to be a criminal organization in dozens of individual criminal prosecutions. Hells Angels have a long record of violence in Canada including the murder of two justice officials in Quebec in 1997, a gang war with the Rock Machine in Quebec that resulted in an estimated 150 murders over the course of a decade, and extensive drug trafficking and related crimes in Manitoba.
Police enforcement against Hells Angels in Manitoba:
Project Defence Nov. 2004 to Feb. 2006
- The first project led to the arrest of 13 people for cocaine and methamphetamine trafficking and related offences including three members of the Hells Angels Manitoba Chapter.
Project Drill Nov. 2006 to Dec. 2007
- Targeted 18 people from Manitoba, Ontario, Alberta, British Columbia and the United States including Hells Angels members and associates.
- All targets were arrested and subsequently convicted for offences related to drug trafficking, conspiracy to commit murder, importation of firearms, proceeds of crime and criminal organization related offences.
Project Divide Nov. 2008 to Dec. 2009
- 34 arrest warrants were issued which, when executed, encompassed every member of the Zig Zag Crew and three Hells Angels Manitoba Chapter full-patch members.
- Subsequent convictions for offences related to drug trafficking, weapons trafficking, criminal organization related offences, and violent offences.
-- Source: Province of Manitoba