Winnipeg Free Press - ONLINE EDITION
Hells Angels clubhouse days numbered?
It only took a couple of minutes in a committee room at the back of legislative building, but it was enough.
And if the Hells Angels were listening, the smartest thing they could do is put their clubhouse at 2679 Scotia St. up for sale.
Get out while the getting's good.
Progressive Conservative Justice Critic Kelvin Goertzen, during a recent budget-estimates meeting, asked Attorney General Andrew Swan why the province hadn't moved yet to seize the biker's clubhouse, which the gang moved into in 2001.
Goertzen said other Canadian jurisdictions have seized Hells Angels clubhouse without much difficulty. The Hells Angels clubhouse in Oshawa was recently demolished after being seized by authorities and the HA's clubhouse in Nanaimo was seized a couple of years ago. HA clubhouses in London, Thunder Bay and Welland have also been seized.
Why can't Manitoba do the same thing, Goertzen asked.
It's no secret the Hells Angels have been the most-favourite target of police over the past three years. Three separate investigations, using inside informants, have pretty much locked up many gang members and their underlings, most recently the entire Zig Zag Crew.
Heck, Stony Mountain Institution has in effect become their new clubhouse.
Manitoba over the past few years has brought in a few pieces of legislation aimed at the gang, like banning the wearing of gang colours in bars and banning fortified buildings.
There's also The Safer Communities and Neighbourhoods Act, which holds property owners accountable for threatening or disturbing activities that regularly take place on their property; stuff like drug use, prostitution, unlawful sale of liquor and possession or storage of an unlawful firearm, weapon or explosive.
Now, no one is accusing the Hells Angels of allowing any of these activities to happen on their riverbank property.
But, given what's happened in Ontario and B.C., authorities don't need to.
The Selinger government is well on its way to passing a new law that will no doubt allow cabinet to brand the Hells Angels a criminal organization, much in the same way Ottawa and other countries outlaw terrorist groups like al-Qa'ida.
When that happens, and it will happen soon, it'll give the province the power to seize homes and other buildings used by convicted criminals.
Anyway, when Goertzen asked Swan about why the custom-built Scotia Street (the proposed 2010 assessment value is $357,000) was still in the hands of Hells Angels, Swan didn't have much to say.
He at first huddled with the province's director of criminal property forfeiture Gord Schumacher. Schumacher is a former superintendent with the Winnipeg Police Service and is a lawyer.
Then Swan said: "I can't speak to the member's questions, because we're -- I'm not going to reveal any particular plans or any particular ideas that the Public Safety Investigation Unit has for the future."
And that was that.
"Well, we look forward, then, to its imminent closure and the sale of the Hells Angels' clubhouse," Goertzen said before moving on to another topic.
So then, whoever calls the shots now for the Manitoba chapter of the Hells Angels, consider yourself warned.
There's no time like the present to put up the for-sale sign.
From what I've seen of the outside -- I've only seen photos of the inside -- it'd be a shame to knock it down.
UPDATE: A response from Rick Ciarniello from Hells Angels' Vancouver chapter.
The Hells Angels, Nanaimo club house was seized. It has not yet been forfeit. From the time it was seized, a case has been winding its way through the court system. It is not the strongest case they have ever launched and, at this time, to believe the BC Government will win is, at best, a giant leap of faith.
Hells Angels, Vancouver
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About Larry Kusch and Bruce Owen
Larry Kusch has been a journalist for 30 years, the last 20 with the Winnipeg Free Press. His is one of the newspaper's two legislative bureau reporters.
Raised on a Saskatchewan farm, he received an honours journalism degree from Carleton University in 1975.
At the Free Press, Larry has also worked as a general assignment reporter, business reporter, copy editor and assistant city editor.
Bruce Owen joined the Winnipeg Free Press in 1990 after four years working in other media.
He's worked in a number of positions at the Freep, including pet columnist, assistant city editor and police reporter. Right now he takes up space at the Manitoba legislature.
Bruce is one of five reporters who won a National Newspaper Award for the paper’s coverage of the 1997 Flood of the Century. He's also the recipient of the 1996 Volunteer Centre of Winnipeg Media Golden Hand Award and the 1995 Canadian Federation of Humane Societies Media Commendation Award.
In a past life Bruce worked at YMCA-YWCA Camp Stephens. He has a blog where he and others write about camp and the people who worked and played there.
You can also find Bruce on Twitter where he posts and retweets all sorts of stuff.
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