The story I have chosen is the ongoing investigation into the eight Bandido motorcycle gang members found killed in Canada’s biggest ever mass murder in Shedden, Ontario in April 2006. Police in the investigation have recently applied for further search warrants for the home of the chief suspect, motorcycle gang member Wayne Kellestine. Kellestine is one of six suspects who have been charged with the murders, commonly believed to be a gangland hit which was the result of a feud or leadership struggle between criminal Motorcycle gang members. During this essay we hope to demonstrate the significance of the story as not only the biggest mass murder in Canadian history, but as an event that draws attention to the fact that Canada, a Country famous for its high standard of living and has a historically low crime rate, is now fast becoming one of the centres of the World for International organised crime. In the first part of our essay we will go into further detail regarding the story and examine some of the Canadian and International responses to the ongoing investigation. In Chapter Two we will examine the story in the cultural and historical context of Canada, an advanced social welfare State which has historically prided itself on avoiding many of the serious social and economic problems in the USA caused as a result of organised crime and other social issues.
In April 2006 police in Shedden, Ontario, discovered the bodies of eight members of the Bandido biker gang in a rural field. All eight had been shot in the head. It was to date the biggest mass killing in Canadian history and has been previously mentioned the investigation and trial are ongoing. The story is significant because it illustrates the scale to which organised crime has now become a part of Canadian life, and in areas such as British Columbia, a major part of the culture and economy. The history of Canadian Biker gangs and organized crime started in the 1970s, when one of the founders of the American Hells Angels, Sonny Barger, came up to Montreal to establish a Chapter, or franchise of Hells Angels. Since then Canadian Motorcycle gangs have been arguably the most powerful Organized crime group in the Country, heavily involved with drugs, prostitution and racketeering. Their gang wars have led to the deaths of hundreds of people and often led to International news stories that damage Canada’s image as one of the most peaceful nations in the World.
The build-up to the mass killings had their origins in the battle to control the drug trade of Ontario. The Hells Angels and Bandido’s Biker gangs have both been engaged in a turf war over several years over the lucrative market in illegal narcotics. It is a war that the Hells Angels have effectively won, as there are now only a few dozen active Bandido members left operating in Ontario. Frustrated by the apparent surrender to the Hells Angels and wanting to take over the leadership of the Ontario Chapter, it is alleged that Wayne Kellestine and five others murdered their fellow Bandido members and President.
The Biker Gangs are not the only form of organized crime in Canada however. International law enforcement agencies consider Vancouver, British Columbia as one of the key hubs in the world of organized crime. Many estimate that up to seven per cent of B.C.’s economy is related to criminal activity, a staggering figure in a nation that regularly appears in top ten lists of the World’s best Countries to live in. Asian gangs, traditional mafia groups and Motorcycle gangs are all involved in Canada, which is now one of the biggest growers of Marijuana in the world.
The responses to the story both within Canada, and internationally has been significant. Within Canada the story has been closely followed by the media, for which stories of Criminal Biker Gangs are a regular staple. It has also led however to an increasing realisation in both the media and wider Society of the extent of organized crime and the potential threat to Canadian law and order, stability and security. In the International media stories have focused on contrasting the brutal nature of the story with the perceived image of Canada as a peaceful, relatively crime free nation, particularly when compared with the United States. However another aspect of the International coverage is the insinuation that Canada’s liberal and insufficient law enforcement institutions are allowing organized crime groups to flourish, allowing them to direct their global criminal operations and create serious security issues for nations such as the UK and the US. American law enforcement personnel have repeatedly pointed out that Canadian Asian gangs are the biggest suppliers of ecstasy to the US, and that Canadian criminal’s extensive marijuana growing operations are spreading throughout the US.
In placing this story in its cultural and historical context, it is not necessary to engage in an in-depth study of Canadian history, merely to highlight several points relevant to the situation. It is my opinion that the story demonstrates the extent to which US culture has played a large role in influencing Canadian culture, especially its criminal elements. As we have mentioned The Outlaw Motorcycle Gang was essentially an American invention that was exported to Canada and the World. Although crime rates are still low compared to the US, violent crime has been steadily rising over the past thirty years in Canadian cities as US Style Street gangs adopt the American gangster culture and the ruthless brutality in despatching rivals that so often goes with it. This is part of a wider cultural backdrop of regarding the massive cultural and social influence of the US in Canada with a certain trepidation, an influence that has often been resisted as many Canadians fear their society will be afflicted by social problems common in US Society, in particular a high violent crime rate and the prevalence of organized crime groups.
The story also has implications for Canadian values and culture. Traditionally Canada has been a Liberal nation in its culture, institutions, laws and history. Canada prides itself on being a multicultural, liberal, tolerant Society, often in contrast with a more Conservative US. Certainly Canadian laws regarding drugs are far more liberal than the US, marijuana use and even small scale cultivation, though illegal, is effectively tolerated by many cities and law enforcement agencies. This has allowed for the spread in massive marijuana growing operations which have evolved from hippy communes in the 1960s to be highly professional operations which contribute billions of dollars towards organized crime groups. The money from this and other operations has led to rival groups fighting over territory and profit, which in turn has led to the rise in violent crime in Cities that previously had some of the lowest murder rates in the world. The Canadian and International media have increasingly questioned and challenged Canada’s lenient and often ineffective measures towards drug smuggling and criminal activities that have turned cities such as Vancouver into hubs of organized crime activity.
Historically Canada has always been a nation of immigrants, from the early French and British settlers to later European, Asian and African immigration. Even today Canada continues to actively seek immigrants from throughout the world in order to maintain population growth and attract skilled persons to the workforce. The prevalence of organized crime groups, many of them with foreign connections has led to many within the Country to criticize Canada’s liberal immigration policies and laws, further putting pressure on Canada’s liberal culture, Government policies and way of life.
I believe that we have demonstrated that the story regarding the murder of the eight Bandido gang members and the subsequent trial is extremely relevant in highlighting major developments in Canadian Social and Cultural life. The rise of Outlaw Biker groups and the related rise of Organized crime groups have had serious consequences for Canadian Society. The rise in violent crime and other social problems related to Criminal activities has damaged Canada’s image as a peaceful, stable, law abiding nation and have put pressure on the Country’s immigration policy, liberal criminal code and law enforcement institutions. Canada has always presented itself to the World as a welcoming, cosmopolitan civilized Society, a nation that combines a high standard of living with a generous welfare system that provides for all its citizens, a welcoming Country where all can feel safe and comfortable. Unfortunately global organized crime groups as well as wealthy professionals have taken Canada up on its offer of hospitality, taking advantage of its wealth and liberal policies. In short the story demonstrates that Organized Crime groups are a threat not only to Canada’s security, but to her entire way of life.