Hells Angels see membership decline in Nova Scotia

'They dropped out because they couldn’t afford it. They dropped out because it’s too demanding,' say RCMP

A year after the Hells Angels established a new foothold in the province by opening a clubhouse in Musquodoboit Harbour, N.S., east of Dartmouth, their membership numbers have started to decline.

At the same time, the Gate Keepers, another motorcycle club affiliated with the Hells Angels, have shut down four of their seven clubhouses in Nova Scotia. 

The Hells Angels are one of the country's most notorious biker gangs. Over the years, its members have been charged with everything from murder to drug trafficking. 

Last year, the Nova Scotia Hells Angels had 16 members, but that number has dwindled to nine active members, one of whom is incarcerated, said RCMP Sgt. Angie Hawryluk. 

She's in charge of the combined forces special enforcement unit, which investigates and monitors motorcycle gangs. 

Hells Angels File

Hawryluk says wherever the Hells Angels set up shop, the level of violence and criminal activity increases. (File Photo)

Exactly why the group's numbers have dropped off isn't clear, although Hawryluk has some theories.   
 
"We've heard that they dropped out because they couldn't afford it, they dropped out because it's too demanding, but that's not something I could definitively substantiate," she said. 

Those costs include paying a membership fee and monthly dues to the Hells Angels, along with travel costs to attend meetings and gatherings out of town. 

Travel became especially costly when the Nova Scotia chapter first opened and it was sponsored by a Hells Angels chapter in Ontario. 

hi-hells-angels-RTR34XRG

The Hells Angels have chapters in many parts of Canada. (Kai Pfaffenbach/Reuters)

"They were on their bikes and driving to Ontario and there are different club duties that are imposed on them, and when you're told you have to go, you have to go, and it could be anywhere in Canada and you pay for it," said Hawryluk. 

Nova Scotia's Hells Angels are now sponsored by the New Brunswick Nomads chapter.

Hawryluk also hopes the recent arrest and incarceration of a Hells Angels member on drug and firearms charges is acting as a deterrent to people who were thinking about joining. 

Four men who were members of the Gate Keepers are also facing charges of criminal harassment and uttering threats after an incident earlier this month in the Musquodoboit area.

Those charges have not been proven in court.

Down but not out

The Gate Keepers are also downsizing — at least when it comes to the number of clubhouses. The group now only operates out of three buildings, but they used to have seven. 

It's not police busts or rival gang activity that has forced the shutdowns, Hawryluk said, but rather it looks like simple finances did the clubs in.

"I can't say concretely why that happened and yes, I would suspect, there are costs associated with the buildings and they weren't able to keep them up."

hi-ns-gate-keepers-bike-8col

RCMP say the Gate Keepers are affiliated with the Hells Angels. (Phonse Jessome/CBC)

But she said just because the clubs are shut down doesn't necessarily mean that the Gate Keepers numbers have dropped off. When the Cape Breton branch of the Gate Keepers closed Hawryluk said many of their members simply joined the Pictou County club.

Hawryluk said there are dozens of people who are members of the province's three outlaw motorcycle gangs. Those include the Hells Angels, the Gate Keepers and Bacchus.

Hells Angels

The Hells Angels and the Bacchus motorcycle gang have been seen riding and partying together, says Hawryluk. (Radio-Canada)

Bacchus still operates a clubhouse in Harrietsfield and despite tensions in the past, appear to be on friendly terms with the Hells Angels. 

Hawryluk said the two groups have gone on rides together and have been seen partying with one another.       

The gangs have set up in Nova Scotia because there is a demand for illegal goods and services like drugs and prostitution. Halifax's port is also attractive to gangs as they look to transport drugs. 

The only way to drive the groups out is with community support said Hawryluk, which includes people stepping up and reporting any suspicious activity they see to police. 

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David Burke
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