By Jaime Weinman, Aaron Wherry, and Kate Lunau - Saturday, December 8, 2012 - 0 Comments
More exits from Montreal’s political stage, the Pope tweets, and hockey fans finally catch a break
On the side of Angels
Ontario Judge Maureen Forestell may be the Hells Angels’ only friend on the bench. The Ontario judge ruled that a 2007 police raid had no right to seize their gold, diamonds, belt buckles and leather goods just because they had the Angels’ “death head” logo emblazoned on them. Forestell said the bling wasn’t directly related to any crime sprees or attempts to intimidate people. In fact, she added, the club has a rule requiring its members to remove their merchandise “when committing offences,” and she ordered the swag returned to the bikers.
Too random an act of kindness?
New York City cop Larry DePrimo became a seasonal hero last week when a photo of him giving a pair of boots and socks to a barefoot man on a frigid Manhattan night went viral. While the 25-year-old police ofﬁcer was instantly beloved—and earned an invite to the Today show—it took New York’s media a few days to track down the man with the new boots. When they did, the story grew a lot more complicated. Jeffrey Hillman isn’t homeless, as he appeared to be. The deeply troubled Army vet has an apartment paid for by a benefit for homeless veterans. It also turns out Hillman is still barefoot. He told reporters that although he appreciated the cop’s gesture, “I could lose my life” for wearing the $100 Skechers boots on the street. Continue…
By David Newland - Tuesday, August 28, 2012 at 3:34 PM - 0 Comments
Keeping kids away from pot is a small problem. Keeping gangs away from pot is a big one.
Sometimes, it’s hard to see the plantation, for the pot. A recent report concluding that adolescent pot smoking affects intelligence got all the headlines. But a bigger issue was hiding behind smaller type: BC RCMP busted Hells Angels for growing pot to fund the importation of cocaine.
I’m dismayed to learn that the pot I smoked as a teenager has probably made me dumber. But I can’t say I’m surprised. I knew at the time that marijuana messed with my brain. That was why I smoked it.
That’s why I’m afraid we may never convince kids to stay away from the stuff. Yes, some will exercise good judgment if they’re educated properly, and avoid high-risk activities, like smoking tobacco or marijuana, drinking alcohol, speeding, engaging in unprotected sex, or doing hard drugs. Or any combination of the above.
The more we can educate the better. But some kids will gravitate toward the very same activities in spite, or indeed because of the risks.
Marijuana’s status as an illegal substance has not prevented teenagers, who are most at risk for mental damage, from using it. It certainly never stopped me. As long as the stuff can be grown quite easily at home, or in the vast expanses of the Canadian countryside, it’s not likely to stop anyone.
Most Canadians are in favour of legalization, or at least decriminalization of marijuana. Some argue that would help keep pot out of the hands of younger people, by making it available only through legal sellers, who would have to adhere to strict regulations including age limits for sale or use.
But that never stopped my friends and me when it came to tobacco or alcohol, which we only had to pilfer from our parents, or pay older kids to obtain for us. So how it would work for pot is a mystery to me.
Maybe legally available bud could be kept at lower levels of THC, making it effectively ‘bud light’ and therefore, perhaps, arguably less dangerous. But beer and cigarettes are available in relatively harmless single doses too. It doesn’t prevent anyone overusing them.
The real advantage of legalization, I’ve come to believe, isn’t that it would keep small amounts of marijuana out of the hands of kids. As the parent of a teenager, it pains me to admit we may never fully succeed in doing that.
What we just might do, though, is keep large amounts of marijuana out of the hands of criminals.
The fact is, the Hells Angels have been making inroads in B.C. for years. The biker gang and other criminal organizations grow and traffic pot as a big business, one which, because it’s illegal, must be protected with the threat of violence. Moreover, it’s an easy cash crop to exchange for cocaine, guns, and other stuff that’s a whole lot nastier than marijuana.
Of course, if marijuana was legal in Canada, there’d be a booming business in smuggling legal Canadian pot into the States, just as there was a booming business in smuggling legal Canadian whiskey into the States during prohibition. But the recent busts reveal the extent to which the Hells Angels are already doing business across borders, from B.C. to Panama.
And at least if pot was legal in Canada, the ordinary recreational consumer of marijuana wouldn’t be funding the activities of major crime networks every time they bought some weed. Instead, they’d be contributing tax dollars, some of which, surely, could be earmarked for better education and treatment for victims of drug abuse, including youth.
Think of the children, yes, of course. We do. That’s why these studies get so much attention when they come to light. But that’s the small-scale pot problem.
When it comes to marijuana legalization, won’t somebody please think of the Hells Angels?
Now there’s a pot problem, on a massive scale.
By Mark Richardson - Monday, July 16, 2012 at 7:09 AM - 0 Comments
Thunder Bay, Ontario – Days 32 and 33
Trans-Canada distance: 4,112 km
Actual distance …
Thunder Bay, Ontario – Days 32 and 33
Trans-Canada distance: 4,112 km
Actual distance driven: 10,453 km
NOW: (Thunder Bay) Tristan and I stopped at the memorial to Terry Fox that’s just east of town. We came here last year in an RV and the statue was no less impressive this summer and just as inspiring.
More than $600 million has been raised to combat cancer by Terry Fox runs since his death in 1980. The idea inspires many others to push their limits across Canada, including a couple of pairs of cyclists I met in Newfoundland. But the idea is also running its fund-raising course: this recent Maclean’s article tells about the glut of people cycling across the country and the hard time they have to get any attention.
And then there’s Hirotaka Suzuki, a 27-year-old chemical engineer from Japan who’s walking from Vancouver to Toronto just, well, because. “If this journey is a success, I won’t get any money, but I will get to Toronto,” he told me in uncertain English. After Toronto, he’d like to go to the Caribbean for the winter, or maybe South America, just to see what’s there.
An OPP cruiser pulled up as I was talking with Hirotaka beside the road, about 20 km east of Nipigon. The cop just wanted to check everything was OK. When I told him about Hirotaka’s long walk, the officer laughed good-naturedly: “I know – he’s crazy!”
The cop was probably happy he hadn’t been called over to Thunder Bay, where half-a-dozen cruisers and blacked-out SUVs were setting up shop on the highway beneath the Terry Fox memorial when we passed by later.
They were almost certainly there to intercept a small group of about a dozen Hell’s Angels who we met in Nipigon, all of us ordering coffee and iced lemonades and sandwiches at the local Tim Hortons.
Far be it for me to tell the cops how to go about their business, but if they’d wanted to be absolutely certain of stopping the Angels as they headed west, they could have put a roadblock at Shuniah, a short distance east along the Trans-Canada Highway. This is where Terry Fox was forced to end his Marathon of Hope, and as best I can tell from any maps, the 2.8 kilometres of TCH between Nelson Road and the road down to Sleeping Giant provincial park is the only point in Canada where there is no alternative road. If you want to cross the country, you have no choice but to drive on that stretch of highway.
THEN: (Neys) There was no road anywhere near the current Trans-Canada in World War II, although the gravel highway between Hearst and Geraldton, roughly 100 km to the north, was constructed in 1943. This provided the final link between east and west; once it was complete, it was possible to drive across Canada without going into the United States.
Brig. Alex Macfarlane and his friend Ken MacGillivray were the first people to make the successful crossing, in 1946, and Macfarlane earned the Todd Medal for doing so. I’ll tell more about them tomorrow, but here’s an introduction.
This isolation made the area an excellent place for holding prisoners of war, and the provincial park at Neys is built on an old POW camp site. There’s very little to show that up to 500 Germans were once incarcerated here, except for a few concrete foundations in the woods and a star of rocks where the flagpole used to stand.
There were escape attempts, but if they weren’t caught, the prisoners would always return after a day or so, bitten by blackflies and exhausted from getting lost in the bush. One German officer even tried to skate across Lake Superior on boot blades fashioned from an old bedstead, but he soon returned like the others. Camp life was fairly relaxed, after all, and the prisoners were well taken care of. Most escape attempts happened once the war was over and the Germans didn’t want to be returned to Europe. Some even settled later in the area.
The curator at Neys provincial park, Teddy Dong, is looking for people who may have memories of the camp to record a verbal history. If you can help, send him a note at email@example.com.
SOMETHING DIFFERENT … (White River) This town used to hold the record for the coldest temperature ever recorded in Canada: 72-below Fahrenheit in 1935. That’s 58-below in Celcius, which is way too cold to think about.
The super-frozen temperature was spotted by 14-year-old Walter Spadoni, when he saw the reading on the thermometer at Rumsey’s General Store while on his way to school. School was cancelled that day.
Walter’s still in White River and I found him at the Home Hardware that his dad founded as a general store in 1905. “Winter’s not what it used to be – it’s a lot warmer,” he told me. “Our roads weren’t plowed, either, but we didn’t have cars, so it didn’t matter.” White River was a bustling railway town but didn’t get a road into the community until 1960, when Walter says he bought himself a Chevrolet to reach the outside world.
But town residents now question the lowest-temperature claim. “It’s an urban legend,” says Deb Duplassie. “It was cold enough to break the thermometer, and the mercury dropped to the bottom. We get our share of minus-30s and minus-40s, when it’s cold enough to freeze your nose hairs, but who knows what the temperature really was that day?”
And even if it were true, a reliable temperature was recorded of minus-81 Fahrenheit (minus-62.8 C) in the Yukon in 1947, disallowing the title. But White River doesn’t need it. Now it promotes itself as the birthplace of Winnie the Pooh – the railway stop where a bear cub was bought in 1914, named Winnie after Winnipeg, and taken to the London Zoo to become an inspiration for children’s author A.A. Milne and his son Robin. Which apparently is a surprise to most visitors, who assume Winnie the Pooh was created by Walt Disney.
SOMETHING FROM TRISTAN, 12 (Ouimet Canyon) Today was the most fun out of all the days so far because for the first time I actually got a good night’s sleep.
Also, we went zip-lining, which was just about the most fun thing I’ve done in my life – it wasn’t scary at all. It was actually quite nice because there was a light breeze on your face and the beautiful scenery of the canyon.
Now we get to sleep in a Best Western with two separate rooms, one for just watching TV and relaxing and the other for sleeping and doing even more relaxing.
Overall, today was the best day of the trip and I don’t think that anywhere else can beat it, so good luck anyone who is up for the challenge.
By Martin Patriquin with Philippe Gohier - Friday, September 23, 2011 at 9:15 AM - 6 Comments
The Duchesneau report details corruption, a money-laundering transport ministry and language laws that stymie competition
It has become a cliché to say Jean Charest has nine lives. The Quebec premier, who has spent more than half his life in politics, has made a sport out of defying expectations with his ability to spring back, catlike, from political disaster. At 36, he brought the federal Progressive Conservative Party from the brink; in 2003, at 44, he overcame an earlier loss to Lucien Bouchard to become premier, and has ruled ever since.
Until recently, Charest had seemingly turned his rather disastrous year in office into this comeback-kid narrative. This is no small feat. Over the last 12 months, Charest’s Liberals weathered allegations of favouritism in the selection of judges, an embarrassing flip- flop on the development of shale gas resources, and have been dogged by news that the party had been the recipient of hundreds of thousands of donations (some legal, some not) from several of the province’s largest engineering and construction firms—the very ones who won lucrative construction contracts from the Ministry of Transport. Far from backing down, Charest mused he might even take a fourth kick at the can.
What a difference one leak can make. Last week, a scathing report on the province’s construction industry, leaked to La Presse and Radio-Canada, stymied Charest’s legacy and, more importantly, gave Quebecers a glimpse at the scale of corruption plaguing the province’s construction industry.
By Aaron Wherry - Saturday, April 10, 2010 at 8:37 PM - 70 Comments
Rahim Jaffer’s business associate has reportedly boasted of his connections to the Hells Angels. Helena Guergis’ constituents are unimpressed. The Globe and Canwest profile the now former minister of state. Guergis is reported to be “peripherally” connected to Jaffer’s business. The Star reprints her resignation letter in full. And the Toronto Sun manages to exceed all else in tastelessness.
By Philippe Gohier - Thursday, April 1, 2010 at 2:45 PM - 50 Comments
A short history of government attempts to legislate clothing
One is a brash and well-entrenched criminal organization with a notorious penchant for dealing in violence, drugs, and women. The other is a strict, dogmatic community with an almost singular focus on rules and traditions. What brings them together, though, is the unusual attention provincial governments in Canada have come to pay to the appearance of each group’s members.
Before Quebec announced the details of Bill 94, which allows provincial government workers to turn away niqab-clad Muslim women who refuse to remove their head-to-toe veils, members of the Hells Angels (and, more broadly, members of other criminal organizations) were the last ones to be targeted by a government-imposed clothing ban. However, if the experiment in banning bikers from showing their affiliations in bars in Saskatchewan and Manitoba is any indication, Quebec could have a hard time justifying banning Muslim garb from government offices.
By Ian Halperin - Friday, June 12, 2009 at 12:20 PM - 0 Comments
‘Everything you wanted was available at Guy’s parties— drugs, the best music, the wildest sex’
Laliberté’s annual Grand Prix party in Montreal every June attracted A-listers from all over the world. The Sunday night after the big Formula One race, Laliberté would host a bash at his sprawling mansion in Saint-Bruno that would usually end up lasting a few days. It became the highlight of the year for the world’s jet set crowd. Years later, Laliberté had to move the party to an airport base because of recurring complaints by neighbours about the incredible noise level and wild partying. Everyone who attended was awed.
“I have attended the finest parties all over the world, but nothing that compares to this,” says Myra Jones, a Milan-based fashion model who experienced several of Laliberté’s parties. “Everything you wanted was available at Guy’s parties—drugs, the best music spun by famous DJs flown in from Europe and the U.S.A., and the wildest sex you could ever imagine.”
By Rachel Mendleson - Thursday, February 26, 2009 at 12:54 PM - 4 Comments
The Angels sue a couple California residents over cyberpiracy
When squaring off against the Hells Angels, gonzo journalist Hunter S. Thompson once observed that “emerging unmaimed” generally depends on “the number of heavy-handed allies you can muster in the time it takes to smash a beer bottle.” But when it comes to settling cyber disputes, it seems the notorious motorcycle club is taking a more highbrow approach. The Angels are suing two California residents, claiming they registered 22 club-related Internet domain names, and then tried to sell them on eBay. The motorcycle club says the enterprise has “damaged the goodwill associated with its marks.” Continue…
By Philippe Gohier - Tuesday, June 3, 2008 at 4:06 PM - 0 Comments
A couple of people have suggested the Couillard story has legs because it’s got…
Take this latest bit, for example: La Presse has uncovered evidence Couillard was involved with someone in Montreal’s Cotroni clan before she was with Gilles Giguère. Giguère had previously been believed to be her first of three romantic links to Montreal’s criminal underworld. Turns out, she dated Tony Volpato, Frank Cotroni’s right-hand man, a few years prior.