Canada has more than 430 gangs, and 94% of the gang members are male. Twenty percent of Canadian gangs are made up of indigenous people.
Canada had 141 gang-related homicides in 2016; that is 45 more than in 2015. The Canadian government has committed $60 million per year to address gang-related crime issues.
Canada has more than 7,000 underage members in Toronto, Vancouver, and Montreal. Most gang members in Canada are recruited as young teens by being respected and given the opportunity to learn the ropes of petty crime and drug sales. Canadian gangs recruit young people who have no family and give them a sense of belonging to hook them into the lifestyle.
Canadian gang-related violence flares up from time to time,usually in urban centers rather than rural areas. Vancouver had a significant gang war in 2008-2009, generally involving the Red Scorpions and the United Nations gangs. Some say it was due to a short supply of Mexican drugs that drove prices up. But the violence didn’t end, and in 2018, a 15-year-old boy, out with his parents was killed by a stray bullet from a gang battle.
Canadian aboriginal gangs are numerous in rural areas like Manitoba where more than 1,500 young people call these gangs their family. Police say that Canadian aboriginal are twice as likely as others to abuse alcohol and drugs and to join gangs. Risk factors for these young people joining gangs include deep systemic social issues like poverty, the legacy of residential schools, fractured families, and time spent in the foster system or youth detention.
Canada’s largest and longest-standing gang is the Indian Posse gang in Winnipeg Canada, but police have identified at least 25 other groups, from the Mad Cowz to the Native Syndicate and the 204 Girlz.
One of the first Canadian gangs was the Manitoba Warriors who were formed in prison around 1992.
Canada also has motorcycle gangs like the Hell’s Angels who have had a presence in Canada since 1977. Motorcycle gangs in Canada deal drugs, extort business owners and charge other gangs fees for doing business within their boundaries.
Canadian motorcycle gangs have even fought turf wars to push out other gangsand have killed some of their own members to enforce new rules. In Canada, there were significant biker wars between 1994 and 2002 when 150 members were killed. The Hell’s Angels appeared to have a monopoly on the East Coast after 2006 when intra-club slaughter murdered 8 members of the Bandidos and the gang pulled out of Canada.
A major Canadian law enforcement crackdown in Quebec, 2009, called Operation SharQc, backfired when 150 gang members were put behind bars, but the courts only allowed five to be charged, saying the bikers had been denied the right to a speedy trial. This allowed the gang to learn a lot about law enforcement tactics through court documents, making them smarter and stronger.
Canadian gangs work through 31 chapters of Hell’s Angels operating within the country using more than 400 active members.
Some other biker gangs that operate in Canada are Satudarah, a European gang, who recently established a chapter in Toronto. The Red Devils, perhaps Canada’s original biker gang, allied with another strong east coast group, Bacchus making them a strong rival for Hell’s Angels. An Australian gang, the Rebels Motorcycle Club, recently opened chapters across the country.
Canadian gangs also work through an alliance with Chinese drug lords called the Triad who use Canadian gangs to launder drug money through Vancouver. They use a secret banking system to send money to high rollers in Canada who gamble in Vancouver casinos and buy real estate using cash. The money that comes back then funds the production of more drugs like fentanyl and counterfeit products. These same alliances between Chinese and Canadian gangs are linked to human trafficking and fake holograms that are used to authenticate Canadian health insurance benefit cards.