By Jason Menard
Remember this name: Daniel Desrochers. By remembering little Daniel today and maybe we won’t have to remember another name closer to home in the near future.
The recent massacre in the Shedden area points to an escalation of biker gang violence in the area. And while many will point to the fact that it appears to be nothing more than bikers killing other bikers so why not leave well enough alone, I again turn to little Daniel.
On Aug. 9, 1995, Daniel was riding his bike in the Hochelaga-Maissoneuve area of Montreal, in the city’s east-end, shortly after noon. As he was riding, a curbside Jeep exploded. The driver, Marc Dubé, a presumed drug runner, was killed instantly.
If it was just Dubé, the story would have died. But Desrochers was riddled with shrapnel from the explosion. He lay in a coma for four days, finally succumbing to his injuries. Almost 10 years later, his mother, Josée-Anne passed away from pneumonia, having fought against bikers since her son’s death. She went to her grave never knowing the identity of her son’s killers.
Until that point Montrealers passed off the not-so-random violence as an accepted part of the Biker War. As long as the Hell’s Angels and the Rock Machine (the two dominant biker gangs at the time) were content to restrict their battles to their own turf, it was nothing more than tabloid fodder for the population at large. Certain publications made their living on the salacious activities that these bikers engaged in. Maurice “Mom” Boucher, the Hell’s leader, became a celebrity in his own right during the time.
That was until Daniel Desrochers.
Reports of the Shedden massacre have included commentary from the locals about how pleasant and well-mannered the bikers in the area were. It’s the same refrain we hear over and over from people living in these areas. And then we wonder why some children grow up to emulate these larger-than-life individuals whose legal transgressions seem only to be an extra bit of flavour on their persona. In less-than-affluent areas, joining these gangs appears to be an accepted way to immediately command respect, earn money, and live above the law.
The fact is bikers are well mannered. Early on, my wife and I lived in an area of Montreal that was just a couple of blocks north of the Rock Machine headquarters. We would walk past their bunker on our way to catching the weekly fireworks at the bank of the St. Lawrence. We drove past their businesses on our way to work. And we never saw hide nor hair of a biker in the year that we were there. The bunker, with its fortifications in front and array of strategically positioned video cameras, was more of a conversation piece than anything else.
That is, until that morning when we were awakened by helicopters and police cars racing down our narrow street to raid the headquarters as part of Quebec’s Operation Wolverine. And turning on the TV that night we heard the same comments from our neighbours: “they were so polite, they never caused any trouble in this area.” Now, driving past the old homestead, the entire area has been demolished, leaving an empty lot. The death and destruction perpetrated by these bikers has given way for a new future. The presence of the Rock Machine in that area is left only in the memories of those who lived there. But still the battle rages on, in Montreal, in Toronto, and right here in Southwestern Ontario.
Turning a blind eye doesn’t work. The fact is that drugs do exist. There is prostitution, there are illegal guns being traded, and someone is looking to make a profit. In this country, the biker gangs are the ones at the forefront of these black-market industries. And, occasionally, there will be turf wars as greed and lust for power grow.
Generally, they keep their battles to themselves. But are we willing to sacrifice our own Daniel Desrochers to the cause before we act? What will it take for us to raise our voices and demand our government and police act against these outlaw gangs?
Bikers may be respectful, they may be polite, they may be fine members of your community, but in the end some bikers are simply criminals whose concern for your well-being extends only as far as their wallet. They’ve proven that if your child can be sacrificed for a greater stake in the lucrative drug trade, then it’s a trade-off they’re willing to make.
The question is, are you?
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