Bandidos flaunt brutal pedigree
Special to The Globe and Mail
Their slogan is unabashedly in-your-face: "We are the people your parents warned you about,"
screams the banner on the official website of Bandidos Canada, and they mean it.
In biker wars that have stretched from Quebec to Winnipeg and throughout Europe, the rivalry between the Bandidos and the Hells Angels has been long-standing -- and bloody.
Unlike the Hells Angels, who have tried to finesse their public image with toy runs and other charity stunts, the Texas-based Bandidos have never shied away from flaunting their brutal pedigree. "Cut one, we all bleed," the Bandidos warn -- and the blood has never stopped flowing, often from internal strife as much as external battles.
In Europe, the Bandidos went to war against the Hells Angels -- literally, with anti-tank rockets, hand grenades and plastic explosives -- in a five-year drug-turf war that left 11 people dead before the gangs agreed to an uneasy truce in 1997.
The Bandidos moved into Canada in 2000, when they took over the Rock Machine, who were engaged in a vicious turf battle with Maurice (Mom) Boucher's Hells Angels in Quebec that left more than 160 people dead. The Hells Angels won that war, and then moved on to try to crush the Bandidos in Ontario with a combination of bullets, bribes and bluster.
A civil war erupted among the Bandidos when the Hells Angels recruited Paul (Sasquatch) Porter, a prominent Rock Machine leader who had survived three murder attempts.
He was luckier than four of the other 11 founding members of the Bandidos' allies in Quebec: they were assassinated via gunshots or car bombs -- one so devastating that the police could identify the victim only by means of a small piece of skin with a tattoo on it.
Mr. Porter decided his life would be better -- and no doubt longer -- if he switched allegiances. He persuaded several members of the Bandidos to jump to the Hells Angels, the first sign of serious internal tensions within the Canadian organization.
Bandidos members who refused to bend -- like Alain Brunette, who left Quebec to help build the Bandidos' Kingston chapter -- had to be broken.
The Quebec Angels sent Daniel Lamer, one of their enforcers from a puppet club, to assassinate Mr. Brunette. But in March of 2002, Mr. Lamer's car was pulled over for speeding on Highway 401. The ensuing gun battle left one OPP officer wounded and Mr. Lamer dead, saving the life of his target.
What the Hells Angels began, the police finished. In June of 2002, about 300 police officers swooped down on homes and clubhouses of the Bandidos in Toronto, Kingston, Montreal and Quebec City, arresting Mr. Brunette and 25 other gang members. The Bandidos were effectively wiped out as a serious force in both Quebec and Ontario.
The Bandidos' small Toronto chapter has tried to make inroads in Alberta and Manitoba, but with little success against the Hells Angels behemoth.
The ineffectiveness of the Canadian arm of the Bandidos could not have sat well with the Texas-based gang, which has always prided itself on its violence and guts. The Canadian Bandidos were considered enough of an embarrassment that their U.S. sponsors tried in the last few months to disown them.
"Because their numbers were so low in Canada, the U.S. Bandidos had tried to separate themselves from Canada," said a police officer with the Criminal Intelligence Service of the Texas Department of Public Safety whose name cannot be revealed because he works undercover against the gang in their home state.
"When you get to the point when you're not even breaking even -- on drugs, like any other trade -- you decide to close the business," he said.
"If you're not bringing anything into the pot, you're a liability instead of an asset."
And that leaves the rich assets of the drug trade in Canada in the monopolistic hands of the Hells Angels.
"The dominant biker organization in Canada is the Hells Angels," says Sergeant Eric Dupre, national co-ordinator for outlaw motorcycle gangs at the RCMP's Criminal Intelligence Service. "The Hells Angels rule and the Bandidos are an insignificant player at this time."
Even more insignificant after the weekend's bloodbath.