At least 150 people have died during the eight-year turf war between the Hells Angels and the Rock Machine.
CBC News Online
Biker gang members share a passion for leather jackets and motorcycles. But beneath the image of long-haired rebels with tattoos lies a criminal underworld.
Rival gang members are beaten, tortured and killed over turf. The gangs are fueled by multibillion dollar drug deals, with car theft, prostitution and money laundering rounding out the sources of revenue.
Biker gangs share these characteristics:
They show off their colors in public.
Biker gangs use force and violence to survive and grow. Intimidation, arms and explosives are their weapons of choice.
The organizations have a hierarchical structure. Committing crimes is left to new recruits while those higher up reap the rewards.
The hierarchical structure allows the leaders to operate with impunity while flaunting their image of power to attract recruits and draw them into crime.
It is difficult for law-enforcement agencies to infiltrate these organizations because becoming a member involves committing crimes.
The Criminal Intelligence Service of Canada considers the Hells Angels to be the foremost organized crime group, topping traditional Mafia and ethnic gangs. The Hells Angels began in 1948 in California and has grown to a network of 1,800 members in 22 countries.
It's estimated that Canada has about 250 full-fledged members and about 2,000 associates. The largest and most-feared chapter of the Hells Angels was formed in Montreal. In 1977 it merged with another gang called the Popeyes.
The Hells Angels' arch-rivals are the Rock Machine. The Rock Machine appeared on the Montreal crime scene in 1986 and now numbers about 60 full-fledged members.
Biker gangs are run like lucrative businesses. The FBI estimates the Hells Angels take in $1 billion a year worldwide from drug trafficking. In 1995, the east-end Montreal drug trade alone was worth about $5 million.
But the profits come at a deadly price. At least 150 people have died during the eight-year turf war between the Hells Angels and the Rock Machine. While Canadians were aware of the biker war, few cared until the death of 11-year-old Daniel Desrochers. He died when a bomb exploded outside a biker hangout.
His death and the outrage that followed prompted Bill C-95, the legislation that stiffens penalties for convicted offenders who are shown to be members of established criminal organizations.
Justice Minister Anne McLellan hopes the bill has enough teeth to stem the violence and end the crime. "As they find new ways to commit their criminal acts and hide their ill-gotten gains
it's incumbent on us to be one step ahead of them at least."
But as police and politicians attempt to put a stop to organized crime, biker gangs are expanding. The Rock Machine is rapidly spreading from Quebec into Ontario. So are the Hells Angels. They're countering with plans to expand into Ottawa and Sudbury. Police have also noticed a growing friendship between Hells Angels and Ontario's Satan's Choice gang.
Police fear the Rock Machine's expansion is their first step to build a cross-Canada network. The Rock Machine hopes to join a larger world-wide biker gang called the Bandidos. Their alliance may already be developing; the Bandidos Web site welcomes the Rock Machine members to their fold.