Bathurst mayor wants province to ban biker gangs

The mayor of Bathurst is calling on the New Brunswick government to follow the lead of Prince Edward Island and introduce legislation banning motorcycle clubs that are associated with criminal activity.

Paolo Fongemie says some area residents are concerned about the presence of the Darksiders North Shore, a biker group affiliated with the Darksiders of Dartmouth, N.S.

Although the group has been in the region for a couple of years with a clubhouse located downtown, members only recently added "MC" to their jackets, said Fongemie.

"We know with all the documentation that was published through the media with the gang war in Quebec … that the MC means Motorcycle Club, and the only club that allows another club to wear those letters on their jacket are the Hells Angels.

"So they've kind of stepped up their game."

Members of the group declined an interview request and would not confirm relations with the Hells Angels.

The RCMP did not want to comment on the activities of biker groups in the Chaleur region, directing inquiries to the municipal police.

The Bathurst Police Force also declined an interview. A spokesperson did confirm links between the Darksiders and the Hells Angels but did not specify whether the Bathurst group is involved in any criminal activities.

"Bathurst city police are fully aware of the presence of the Darksiders North Shore Motorcycle Club in Bathurst, as well as other support clubs in the province," newly appointed Chief Ernie Boudreau said in a followup emailed statement to CBC News.

"We are in agreement with the Bathurst city mayor and civic authority concerning their preoccupations," wrote Boudreau.

"Outlaw motorcycle gangs are a serious issue in any community and to combat this threat requires collaboration as well as partnerships with all levels of policing, being municipal, provincial and national forces, in order to have a co-ordinated approach in combating this serious problem."

Police look forward to educating citizens "on the differences between outlaw motorcycle gangs and support clubs versus recreational motorcycle clubs."

Annual Biker Bash cancelled

Fongemie said some citizens have approached him in recent weeks, saying they've heard about the bike gang and asking, "Are we in danger?"

"People are starting to be afraid, and that's not right," he said.

"We don't need this in our community."

The city is struggling with an aging population and trying to attract young families, he said.

"We want to be promoted as a safe community, so we don't need this," he said.

Premier Brian Gallant said his government would be open to hearing any requests from the municipality but has not received any official request from the mayor.

Department of Justice spokesman Paul Bradley said in an email the government "is alert to the potential for organized criminal activity in New Brunswick and works to ensure law enforcement has the tools it needs to respond to any and all serious and organized crime."

"We regularly monitor what other jurisdictions are doing in terms of crime prevention and we are pleased to see the steps P.E.I. is taking to address organized crime, similar to what we did in 2010 by prohibiting fortified buildings," Bradley added.

Lack of options

Bathurst council is "somewhat limited" in what it can do but has already taken some steps, said Fongemie. For example, it has withdrawn funding for the annual Biker Bash after members of the Hells Angels were seen publicly with the Darksiders North Shore group last year.

"That's one measure that we did — we're not going to finance through taxpayers' money an event that might attract [motorcycle] gangs that we don't want in our city."

Hospitality Days will still offer something for motorcycle enthusiasts and their families, he added.

A bylaw banning bikers from wearing their group's colours at bars, which other municipalities have successfully enacted, is another possibility, said Fongemie.

Education, awareness important

Council will also focus on educating people about the Darksiders, especially since he has heard the group is actively recruiting high school and college students.

"I think young men, they want to all be part of a group, have the feeling you belong to something," but "people have to be careful what they belong to," he said. "Some people feel it's cool to be associated with bad boys, it's just they don't know how bad the boys are."

Although the group conducts fundraisers for "good initiatives," such as the community centre and breakfasts in schools, the mayor said people who accept donations from the group should know more about it. 

Clothing brand a code

The group is selling "81" clothing online, he said, which is a metonym for Hells Angels. The eighth letter of the alphabet, which is H, and the first letter of the alphabet, which is A. Some of the clothing also bears the inscription, "Brotherhood is not a crime."

"So people have to be aware of what they're buying and what they're wearing and what it means in the community," said Fongemie.

"We in Bathurst can do something, hopefully the others in surrounding municipalities would do the same thing because if not, we're just transferring [a] problem from one city to a town or village, but what do we do in the [local service districts] which have no governance on a local level?

"So I think that's why the province has to play a leadership role."