Gangs in Canada
Gangs in Canada are mostly present in the major urban areas of Canada, although their activities are not confined to large cities.
- 1 Gang prevention
- 2 Ethnic breakdown of youth gangs
- 3 Dominant gangs in Canadian provinces
- 4 Types
- 5 By city
- 6 B.C.'s Organized Crime Families
- 7 Organized Crime Groups in Alberta
- 8 See also
- 9 References
Currently in Canada, steps are being taken to ensure public safety related to gangs. To be specific, the Brampton-Springfield MP, Parm Gill, is in the process of having his private members bill, Bill C-394, pass all steps before becoming a law. Bill C-394 is slated to make gang recruitment a federal crime, and committing the crime can result in years in prison.
Ethnic breakdown of youth gangs
Police-reported ethnic breakdown of youth gang members
Afro-Caribbean 25%, First Nations 22%, Caucasian 18%, Indian/Pakistani 14%, Asian 12%, Hispanic 6%, Middle Eastern 3%
Canadian prison breakdown
White 66.6%, 17.1% Aboriginal, Black 7.4%, Other 5%, Asian 2.9%, South Asian 1%
Asian 37%, Caucasian 22%, Indian/Pakistani 14%, First Nations 10%, Hispanic 8%, Middle Eastern 5%, Afro-Caribbean 5%
First Nations 58%, Hispanic 33%, Caucasian 9%
First Nations 96%, Caucasian 2%, Hispanic 2%
First Nations 58%, Caucasian 26%, Afro-Caribbean 9%, Hispanic 3%, Indian/Pakistani 3%
Afro-Caribbean 36%, Indian/Pakistani/Sri Lankan 21%, Caucasian 21%, Asian 8%, Hispanic 6%, Middle Eastern 4%, First Nations 4%
Afro-Caribbean 51%, Caucasian 21%, Hispanic 12%, Asian 9%, Middle Eastern 5%, Indian/Pakistani 2%
Afro-Caribbean 48%, Caucasian 47%, First Nations 9%
Dominant gangs in Canadian provinces
In Western Canada (from B.C to Alberta), the most prevalent gangs or organized crime groups are Outlaw biker gangs, Asian Triads and street gangs, organized Indo-Canadian street gangs, Eastern European Mobs/Mafias, White Supremacy gangs and Central/South American drug cartels. There are also some prominence of Aboriginal gang activity in B.C and Alberta.
In Central Canada, (Saskatchewan and Manitoba) Aboriginal street gangs and Outlaw motorcycle clubs are most prevalent.
In Eastern Canada, (Ontario and Quebec) due to the areas large population and diversity, there are a variety of gangs or organized crime groups, including Caribbean street gangs, Eastern European organized crime groups, Italian crime families, Outlaw biker gangs, Asian organized crime groups, South Asian street gangs, and Hispanic street gangs. Many of these gangs and organized crime groups are either enemies or allies with each other, and some also have international connections.
The most prevalent gangs in Canada include:
- Street gangs
- Outlaw Motorcycle Gangs
- Mafias and Mobs as Italian Mafia, Russian Mafia, Irish Mob
- Organized crime groups, including Aboriginal Based Organized Crime, Punjabi organized crime, and Asian organized crime, Jamaican Posse
- Central/South American Drug cartels
According to a 2004 police report, "The Hells Angels remain some of the largest and most powerful motorcycle gangs in the country, with growing influence in British Columbia and Ontario. Its presence has declined in other provinces due to police efforts, internal conflict and increased competition from other crime groups."
The same report stated that Aboriginal street gangs are not as highly organized as other criminal organizations in Canada, but are amongst the most violent. Aboriginal people also constitute a significant portion of prison populations throughout Canada, and the number of First Nation inmates continues to rise at a considerable rate. As of 2005 it is believed over 1000 Aboriginal youths were members of street gangs.
According to the Criminal Intelligence Service Canada (CISC), "The established, well-financed and -connected Hong Kong Triad groups and crime syndicates remain, to our mind, the biggest long-term threat to Canadian law enforcement and society."
The Indo-Canadian community has faced a wave of gang violence across the country especially in the Western province in British Columbia which has claimed the lives of 100 Indo-Canadian males since the 1990s to present day who are disapportinately from the Jat Sikh community. The Indo-Canadian community in BC has experienced a wave of gang and drug related crime- the kind not seen in any community in Canada before.
Known crime groups in Abbotsford involve Punjabi/South Asian street gangs, various Asian crime groups, motorcycle gangs, and multicultural street gangs. Abbotsford is also home to one of the most diverse gangs in the world, for example the United Nations which is a gang made up of primarily Caucasians, Asians, Indo-Canadians, Persians, and with smaller amounts of other ethnicities.
According to the Abbotsford Youth Crime Prevention Project the groups of people who are most vulnerable to become part of a gang in the city are first the street entrenched, sexually exploited or homeless youth at risk of gang and criminal involvement. The second are South Asian (Punjabi) youth who are at risk of joining or who already participate in gangs, gang like behaviour and/or criminal activity.
Known crime groups in Calgary include Aboriginal street gangs, Aryan Nation groups, Chinese street gangs, Vietnamese gangs, Middle Eastern street gangs (mostly Lebanese), Somali gangs, South Asian (mainly Pakistani and Punjabi Sikhs) street gangs, Mexican drug cartels, Afro-Caribbean street gangs, multicultural street gangs, and outlaw motorcycle gangs.
Between 2002-2009 there was a bloody gang war between two rival Asian gangs the FK and FOB gangs which resulted in 25 gang related murders of not only Asians but of gang members of European and (East) Indian descent. But now there have been worries of another gang war in Calgary notably the Northeast part of the city where there have been an outrageous 63 shootings with 60% being drug related. Those involved are of different cultural backgrounds and 60 to 100 of these men are said to be involved. 
Known crime groups in Edmonton include Aboriginal street gangs, Aryan Nation groups, Central European organized groups, Chinese street gangs, Vietnamese drug clans, Middle Eastern (most being Iranian) street gangs, Mexican drug cartels, Central-East African street gangs, Bloods, Crips, Belmead Avenue, multicultural street gangs and outlaw motorcycle gangs.
However recently the arrival of Mexican drug traffickers, along with increased activity by outlaw motorcycle gangs, is changing the face of organized crime in Alberta especially in the major cities of Edmonton along with Calgary.
Biker gangs have, at various points, played a major role in Halifax's crime scene, particularly during the 1980s and 1990s. However, a crackdown on biker gang activity throughout Eastern Canada, in the wake of the Quebec Biker War. Most biker gangs are composed of extended families or of close associates, providing little scope for recruitment or promotion from outside. The notorious Bloods and Crips have been a big part of Halifax's gang problem as well.
Once home to organized crime figure Rocco Perri Canada's Al Capone, and Johnny Pops Papilia. The Musitano Bros. who were convicted of the hit on Papalia, returned to their James North cafe but later moved when the art scene overtook the street they have since lived a low key life. Much of the gang activity is within the inner city, mostly within the downtown and east end, and mainly attributed to smaller street gangs. Areas affected by gang activity include: Grandville, the North End, Oriole Crescent neighborhoods, and much of the downtown sector. The Hells Angels operate out of a clubhouse on Gage Ave North.
Biker gangs operate from clubhouses based in Montreal. Over the years numerous members have been arrested, firearms and homicide charges. Between 1994 and 2002 a biker war between gangs led to a period of increased violence which would become known as the Quebec Biker war. Traditional organized crime has had a presence in the city since the early 1900s, mainly in the form of the Irish mob and the Italian mafia.
Gangs in Montreal are mostly Caucasian but there are minority gangs which are mostly of Jamaican, Haitian or Hispanic descent.
United smaller street gangs made up of mostly youths are pocketed in different areas of the Montreal area, particularly in Montréal-Nord, Sud-Ouest, St-Michel, Parc-Extension, West Island, St-François, Côte-des-Neiges, NDG, Ville St-Laurent (St-Low), Rivière-des-Prairies and St-Léonard neighbourhoods.
The city's largest street gangs in 2006 were:
- the Crips located in Saint-Michel, Pierrefonds, Villeray, Ahuntsic, Parc-Extension, Lasalle, Lachine, NDG, Little Burgundy, and Côte-des-Neiges.
- the Bloods located in Côte-des-Neiges, Montréal-Nord, Rivière-des-Prairies, Laval, St-Léonard, and Ville St-Laurent (St-Lo 64).
Despite the National Capital Region being patrolled by five police forces (Ottawa Police, Ontario Provincial Police (OPP), Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP), Gatineau Police, Quebec Provincial Police (QPP)), the city of Ottawa is still home to a number of gangs, ranging from minor neighbourhood street gangs, to well organized crime families. Most street level gangs in Ottawa are located in the city's south side and the west end between the Debra area, and Lincoln Heights. The two most prominent street gangs in Ottawa are the "Bloods" and "Crips". Ottawa is also home to the biker gangs, Italian Mafia, however, major police operations resulted in the arrest of the groups hierarchy. To a lesser extent, there is also a presence of Asian, Black, and Hispanic gangs in the city. There is also a rising tide of Caucasian gangs in the city.
Gang activity in Ottawa spiked in the 1990s with many high profile brazen crimes including a daytime jewelry store robbery/shoot out in the Rideau Centre, a busy downtown shopping mall, and a random drive-by shooting murder of a British student on a busy downtown street. Today drive by shootings are rare and most gang activity includes narcotic distribution.
Adult gangs in Saskatchewan are almost entirely aboriginal based. The largest gang activity is in Regina and Saskatoon. There is also a branch of the Hells Angels in the province. Youth gangs are also almost entirely aboriginal based. Saskatchewan had the highest concentration of gang membership in Canada at 1.34 per 1000 in 2002 The website insideprisons.com lists 108 street gangs for the Prairie region.
Certain neighbourhoods in Toronto have experienced gang and organized crime activity including human trafficking, firearm trafficking, drug trafficking, robbery, and Mafia/mob activity,.
Toronto has a strong Italian Mafia presence, most notably in Woodbridge and the St. Clair area of downtown. Gangs in Toronto are mostly Black (Somalian/Jamaican), Asian (East/Southeast) mainly Chinese and Vietnamese, also a few Filipino gangs, Eastern European (Russian), Middle Eastern (Afghan/Iranian), South Asian (Indian Punjabis/Pakistani), and Tamil (Sri Lankan/Indian). There are also a few Latino/Hispanic gangs from the United States that operate in Toronto.
Although Toronto's murder rate remains low, there has been a recent rise in gun violence in the downtown core of the greater Toronto area. The two most focal incidents were the Boxing Day shooting, a shootout between rival gangs that resulted in the death of 15-year-old bystander Jane Creba on December 26, 2005 on Yonge Street, and a mall food court shooting at the Eaton Centre on June 2, 2012, which left two dead (Ahmed Hassan & Nixon Nirmalendran) and injured seven others, including a 13-year-old boy. Hassan was considered to be the targeted victim and is considered to be gang-affiliated while others were considered innocent bystanders.
Several police raids in the city have targeted gangs in the neighbourhoods of Malvern, Jane and Finch, Driftwood, Falstaff, Galloway, and Rexdale.
Known crime groups in Scarborough include Indian/Pakistani/Tamil street gangs, Asian street gangs, Black street gangs, White street gangs, and multicultural street gangs.
Known crime groups in Brampton include mainly South Asian and Black gangs but there are a few Caucasian gangs in the city. For South Asian gang members in Brampton 80% were Indian/Punjabi, 15% Pakistani, and 5% Tamil. Most areas are claimed by the Punjabi gangs. Racial tensions between gang members in the city are mostly between South Asians and Blacks with less extent with Afghans battling with Pakistanis.
Known crime groups in Mississauga include Black, Chinese, Indian, Tamil, Hispanic and Arab street gangs.
Known crime groups in Vancouver include Punjabi street gangs, Aboriginal street gangs, motorcycle gangs, Iranian gangs, Hispanic street gangs, Vietnamese gangs, Chinese street gangs, Korean street gangs, Filipino criminal groups, and "multicultural" street gangs.
Vancouver also has an Italian mafia presence, and various Eastern European bratvas are also known to be active in the Lower Mainland.
According to law enforcement agencies, the most powerful of these crime groups in Vancouver, are the motorcycle gangs, Indo-Canadian street gangs, and East Asian street gangs. However, in recent years, "multicultural" street gangs have grown significantly in power and prominence, and have attained much media attention due to their involvement in numerous shootings and slayings throughout the city. including the 2009 Vancouver gang war.
According to the Combined Forces Special Enforcement Unit of British Columbia the ethnicities of people who died from a total of 160 gang related violence between January 2006 to Match 2014 were:
▸ Caucasian (74 victims; 46.3%)
▸ South Asian (34 victims; 21.3%)
▸ Asian (33 victims; 20.6%)
▸ Middle Eastern (10 victims; 6.3%)
▸ First Nations (6 victims; 3.8%)
▸ Hispanic (3 victims; 1.9%)
Winnipeg's gang activity involves mainly Aboriginal gangs. There are also smaller numbers of African and Asian gangs in the city. Throughout the 1990s, the city was and still is the Aboriginal gang capital of Canada.
B.C.'s Organized Crime Families
Motorcycle gangs and Vietnamese gangs are considered the most sophisticated groups, while Indo-Canadian gangs rank among the most violent
Outlaw Motorcycle Gangs
Size: There are 95 members of the Hells Angels in seven chapters in the Lower Mainland and Nanaimo. There are also dozens of "associates" who are trusted friends of club members and assist in criminal activities.
Criminal activities: Heavily involved in B.C.'s $6-billion marijuana-growing industry, importing and distributing cocaine, hashish and increasingly, methamphetamine. Extortion, debt collection.
Propensity for violence: High. The Angels rule by fear and intimidation and aren't afraid to use violence to protect turf and criminal interests. Police are concerned about the Bandidos, a U.S. motorcycle gang already established in Washington state, moving into B.C. and sparking violence.
Level of sophistication: High. This is reflected in the low number of successful prosecutions.
Geographic reach: The Hells Angels have a network of chapters across Canada, the U.S., South America, Africa and Europe.
Structure/hierarchy: Organized into chapters in various cities, but no single crime boss. Each member works as his own boss, if he wants, and in small cells to elude police detection. "They are disciplined and well led," says Vancouver RCMP Insp. Bob Paulson, in charge of major investigations involving outlaw motorcycle gangs.
Size: Unknown. Police say there are dozens of small Vietnamese groups operating in B.C. The most prominent Asian gang in the Vancouver area is the Big Circle Boys, also known as Dai Huen Jai.
Criminal activities: Vietnamese groups control about 85 per cent of the marijuana-growing operations in the Lower Mainland and most of the drug trade on Vancouver Island, north of Nanaimo. They have recently branched out into methamphetamine. They also use Big Circle Boys connections to export pot to the U.S. The Big Circle Boys have made the Lower Mainland a hotbed of counterfeit credit- card fraud activity. BCB's mainstay is importing and distributing cocaine and southeast Asian heroin. BCB members have been involved in murder, loan-sharking, people-smuggling, extortion, home-invasion robberies and exporting stolen luxury cars to Asia.
Propensity for violence: Vietnamese gangsters are known for being ruthless and unpredictably violent during confrontations. Other Asian crime groups are more low-key, not wanting to attract police attention, but will resort to violence and murder to protect their criminal interests.
Level of sophistication: High. Vietnamese have developed a marijuana-growing system that has been exported to Vietnamese groups in Ontario and Australia. Big Circle Boys have computer experts for credit-card fraud and use off-shore accounts and shell companies to launder money and elude police detection.
Geographic reach: Vietnamese and Big Circle Boys have national networks in such major cities as Vancouver, Calgary, Edmonton, Toronto and Montreal, and are expanding into smaller cities. BCB has a similar national network in the U.S. Some local Asian gangsters are connected to Hong Kong triads, secret societies of criminals.
Structure/hierarchy: Asian crime groups typically organize in small groups with low-ranking members answering to a crime boss, called a Dai Lo (big brother).
Size: Unknown. They are difficult for police to get a handle on because they use so many languages. Members are from Russia and other former Soviet Union countries.
Criminal activities: Mainly known for drug trafficking and credit/debit-card fraud. But also involved in people-smuggling, money-laundering, extortion, export of stolen luxury vehicles. Also have infiltrated diamond industry in Russia and southern Africa.
Propensity for violence: Medium. Don't usually like drawing police attention, but will use violence if necessary.
Level of sophistication: Varies. Often rely on expertise of individuals outside the group to assist in a criminal undertaking. Three members of a Romanian crime group were recently arrested in Vancouver for allegedly being involved in a highly sophisticated automatic-banking-machine fraud. Police say they used a bogus card -reader to download magnetic-strip information from cards and recorded personal identification numbers by using a tiny, overhead camera linked to a remote video monitor. Eastern Europeans are also involved in counterfeit currency, exporting stolen luxury cars, money-laundering and smuggling women, especially from Russia, to work as prostitutes and in massage parlours.
Geographic reach: Operate across the country but mainly concentrated in Ontario. Highly mobile with varying levels of presence in B.C., Alberta and Quebec.
Structure/hierarchy: Operate in small cells.
Independents and Indo-Canadians
Criminal activities: Independents are primarily involved in marijuana-growing operations, where profits are used to fund legitimate businesses. They often cooperate with Asians and Hells Angels to distribute their "product." Indo-Canadians operate many dial-a-dope operations, using pagers and cellphones to deliver drugs on the street. Indo-Canadian truckers are lured by quick cash to smuggle B.C.-grown marijuana across the U.S. border.
Propensity for violence: High, mainly because members are young and show poor impulse control. Shifting allegiances lead to violence, usually involving guns, among Indo-Canadian males. There have been more than 60 gang-related murders in B.C. involving Indo-Canadians in the last 15 years.
Level of sophistication: Low.
Geographic reach: Concentrated primarily in the Lower Mainland, Fraser Valley, lower Vancouver Island and Alberta.
Structure/hierarchy: Loosely organized in small groups of friends and relatives.
Traditional (Italian-Based) Organizations
Criminal activities: Involved in illegal gaming such as sports betting, marijuana-growing operations, drug distribution, overseas lottery-ticket sales, debt collection and stock-market manipulation. Invest profits in real estate and such traditional businesses as construction companies, bars and restaurants.
Propensity for violence: Medium to high. Don't like to attract police attention.
Level of sophistication: Medium. Most groups have existed for several generations.
Geographic reach: Concentrated primarily in Montreal, Toronto, Hamilton and Niagara region of Ontario. While Mafia members remain low-profile in the Vancouver area, they do exist and have a symbiotic relationship with the Hells Angels in B.C. that is based on "social ties and illicit businesses," says the 2004 Annual Report on Organized Crime in Canada, published by the Criminal Intelligence Service Canada.
Structure/hierarchy: Operate in small groups but report to a crime boss known as the godfather.
Organized Crime Groups in Alberta
Asian gangs are characterized as sophisticated and large, with some gangs having more than a hundred members. Police reports have indicated that the number of individuals joining these gangs has continued to increase. Asian gangs are involved in criminal activities such as drug trafficking, illegal gambling, prostitution, counterfeiting, fraud and money laundering. In Alberta, conflicts with other gangs involved in similar business activities have resulted in infrequent but high profile shootings between gang members.
Aboriginal gang activity has been recorded in Alberta. There are currently nine Aboriginal gangs identified in the city of Edmonton. Four of the larger and more organized gangs are the Alberta Warriors, Native Syndicate, Redd Alert and Indian Posse, with chapters in both Edmonton and Calgary. Gang activity does not appear to be limited to these urban centres, but also exists on reserves throughout Alberta. Police monitoring of these gangs has revealed a close relationship between Aboriginal gangs and the Hell's Angels. The Criminal Intelligence Service of Alberta has recorded "business" transactions between the two gangs. It appears they are working together and sharing profits from criminal activities such as theft, drug trafficking, robberies, assaults, intimidation and extortion.
Outlaw Motorcycle Gangs
Law enforcement considers the Hell's Angels motorcycle gang a national priority. Across Canada, the Hell's Angels has remained a powerful and well structured criminal organization for many years. In Alberta, the Hell's Angels are the only motorcycle gang in existence, with chapters in Calgary, Edmonton and Red Deer. Police affirm that Hell's Angels members are involved with the trafficking of cocaine, firearms and explosives, growth and distribution of marijuana, money laundering, intimidation and threats, collection of protection money from both legitimate and illegitimate businesses, fraud and prostitution. Law enforcement predicts that the Hell's Angels will expand in all areas of illegitimate business as new chapters of the gang appear throughout Western Canada.
Police have put a concerted effort into eliminating the Hell's Angels from Alberta. Alberta law enforcement has joined forces with other law enforcement services across the country in an attempt to gain perspective and optimize strategies for gang reduction. Undercover operations have been initiated for the purpose of eliminating the drug and prostitution trade run by Hell's Angels members. Police believe these operations have worked to their advantage, because they have incarcerated key members of the gang and witnessed increased infighting and tension among Hell's Angels gang members. Hell's Angels members have been officially charged with such offenses as extortion, assault and drug related charges in recent years.
According to intelligence services, traditional organized crime has been active in Alberta since the early 1980s. Members of traditional gangs originate from a Mafia family based in the Montreal area. In Alberta, their region of activity seems to be primarily Calgary. Traditional gang members have been involved with money laundering, large scale frauds, drug trafficking and corruption within business communities.
Racist and Hate Groups
Law enforcement does not consider racist and other hate groups to pose as serious a threat as Asian, Aboriginal and outlaw motorcycle gangs. Although they do not have the size, strength and level of organization of other gangs in Alberta, they do make their presence known. These groups are known by names as "We the People," "Canadian De-Tax" and "Patriots on Guard." The main type of criminal activity of these groups is related to the chaos they create in courtrooms throughout the province, particularly when one of their members is in court. They are typically charged with contempt of court, obstruction of justice and assault.
Eastern European Organized Crime
Eastern European Organized Crime groups in Canada have remained primarily in Ontario regions. Law enforcement reports that they are emerging into Western Canada as a result of new working relationships with Asian, Aboriginal, outlaw motorcycle and traditional gangs. Drug trafficking, distribution of counterfeit money and an increased use of legitimate business to conceal and launder criminal proceeds have increased. Police monitoring of this gang activity has not reported any direct links except to indicate that some crimes are indicative of organized Eastern European offenses.
The interpretation of Alberta's gang situation, from the perspective of law enforcement and intelligence services, is established by the information gathered from monitoring and recording gang activity. Law enforcement agents indicate that gangs are continuing to expand in size and sophistication, leaving law enforcement unequipped and inadequately funded to cope with this growing problem. The role of law enforcement personnel is to "control" gangs, most often by charging and incarcerating gang members. Law enforcement services work closely with federal and provincial governments. They share a common goal of formally controlling gang activity through suppression (formally charging and incarcerating). Governments are the primary financial resources for law enforcement. Governments across Canada appear to strongly support law enforcement efforts. This is seen by their recent responses, including increased funding and legislative amendments intended to increase law enforcement powers.
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Book: William O'Grady, Crime in Canadian Context, 2nd Ed (Canada: Oxford University Press, 2011) > Chicago/Turabian Citation