Mr. Speaker, this summer, we witnessed a major public relations stunt by the the Hell's Angels, Operation Support 81. The eight and the one represent the respective letters of the alphabet, H and A, for Hell's Angels.
Members of the gang set up kiosks at our agricultural fairs. They travelled around Quebec like rock stars, visiting Quebec City, Saint-Hyacinthe, Saint-Jovite, and Saint-Pie, along with Joliette and Saint-Zénon, which are in my riding. They rode around in their leather jackets and sunglasses like the actors from Easy Rider, but they are not celebrities. They are criminals, drug dealers and pimps, who are running a protection racket. The Hell's Angels are back and are once again threatening public safety.
Today, we learned that they are going to set up shop in Mirabel. They are going to open a boutique, as though they were florists. However, the only reason the Hell's Angels would need flowers is to make wreaths.
In the 1990s, when the biker wars were raging in Quebec, it quickly became obvious that a new law was needed to help law enforcement in their fight against organized crime. From the start, the Bloc spoke out about this reality in the House and put pressure on the Liberal government of the time.
The passage of Bill C-59 in 1997 marked a first step in the fight against organized crime. However, the amendments to the Criminal Code were too complex to effectively secure convictions in the courts. The police quickly called for amendments, and, once again, the Bloc Québécois was the first to act and bring those calls into the political arena.
In 2000, the Bloc Québécois led the effort to have amendments made to that initial anti-gang law and to expand its scope. Gilles Duceppe was even targeted by threats and intimidation from criminal organizations, to deter him from proceeding. However, Gilles Duceppe stood up to them and the Bloc Québécois demonstrated its determination.
As a result, in 2002 our efforts led to the enactment of Bill C-24, which created two new, separate offences to assist in combatting organized crime. Participating in the activities of a criminal organization and committing an indictable offence for the benefit of a criminal organization became two separate offences. It became possible to secure a conviction against members of criminal organizations for gang-related or criminal organization offences.
To better protect the public and the police who are engaged in fighting organized crime, the law also added provisions to combat the intimidation of journalists and of federal, provincial and municipal elected representatives, and also of any person who plays a role in the administration of the penal and criminal justice system.
In 2009, the Bloc Québécois again took up the issue with a motion to have criminal organizations such as criminal biker gangs recognized as illegal. Also in 2009, the Bloc supported Bill C-14 on organized crime, to have any murder committed for the benefit of a criminal organization deemed to be a premeditated murder carrying a sentence of life imprisonment. At the same time, and also at the initiative of the Bloc Québécois, the Criminal Code was amended to reverse the burden of proof and force criminal organizations to prove the source of their income.
Following an international conference on money laundering and organized crime held in Montreal in 1998, the Bloc Québécois persuaded the government to withdraw $1,000 bills from circulation, as they were commonly used to launder organized crime money.
The Bloc Québécois has always been a thorn in the side of organized crime. However, we must not forget that gangsters adapt quite readily. There seems to have been a resurgence of criminal biker gangs since 2016.
Here again, we have a responsibility to act. Let me remind the House that the biker war from 1994 to 2002 was especially bloody. The eight-year tally was over 150 deaths, nine disappearances, and 181 attempted murders. Things could very well start up again.
Since the summer of 2016, organized crime experts and observers have noted that criminal biker gangs are making a strong comeback. Since Operation SharQc in 2009, most of the bikers who were charged have been released; some of the trials just fizzled out, and many who were convicted had their sentences reduced. Now, they are making their presence increasingly known, and we have been seeing more shows of force, too.
In recent months, bikers have started congregating again, displaying their patches openly and with impunity.
For that reason we are proposing, first of all, that a list of criminal organizations be created, similar to the list of terrorist organizations, and second, that the wearing of patches and emblems associated with the organizations on such a list be prohibited.
I would point out that the last biker war resulted in 150 deaths in Quebec alone, including an 11-year-old child. We have not forgotten. Organized crime exists at considerable human cost. We cannot sit idly by and do nothing. Let us agree: in the wake of the Jordan decision, saving weeks and even months would be a good thing for our judicial system.
That is why we back at it again, now with two new measures. The first would make it possible for the Governor in Council to establish a list of criminal organizations and to place on that list those organizations recommended by the Minister of Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness. The second would make it an offence for a member of a listed criminal organization to wear emblems such as patches.
The bill sponsored by my colleague from Rivière-du-Nord, in the name of the Bloc Québécois, is another step in the fight against organized crime.
We all know that it will take much courage on the part of MPs to adopt this bill. I am convinced that there is a great deal of courage in the House.
Let us be strong, resolute, and worthy of the people's trust. Let us pass the bill and strike a blow at organized crime.