Squamish Five

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Direct Action
Also known asSquamish Five, Wimmin's Fire Brigade, Vancouver Five
Dates of operation1981 - 1983
MotivesWar against the state
Active regionsCanada
Notable attacksBombings, Arson
Size5+ members

The Squamish Five (sometimes referred to as the Vancouver Five)[1] were a group of self-styled "urban guerrillas" active in Canada during the early 1980s. Their chosen name was Direct Action.

The five were Ann Hansen, Brent Taylor, Juliet Caroline Belmas, Doug Stewart and Gerry Hannah. They were activists who had become disenchanted and frustrated with traditional methods of activism, believing that by engaging in semi-symbolic propaganda by the deed, they could jolt people into action themselves.[citation needed]

Early actions[edit]

The first actions associated with the group included vandalizing the headquarters of AMAX Inc., a mining company which had been granted a special exemption from environmental laws,[citation needed] and offices of the British Columbia Ministry of Environment.[2]

After these actions, the group dispersed. Belmas and Hannah retreated to the Rocky Mountains, and Hansen, Taylor, and Stewart moved underground together, becoming more militant. They began training with stolen weapons in a deserted area north of Vancouver, and stole a large cache of dynamite belonging to the Department of Highways.[3] They supported themselves through various forms of fraud and theft[citation needed].

Direct Action member and Subhumans bassist Gerry Hannah

Bombing campaigns[edit]

Cheekye-Dunsmuir bombing[edit]

On the morning of 30 May 1982, Hansen, Taylor, and Stewart traveled to Vancouver Island and set off a large bomb at the Dunsmuir BC Hydro substation. The damage was extensive, causing over $3 million CAD in damage and leaving four transformers damaged beyond repair. Nobody was injured.[1] The hydroelectric project had been criticized by some[who?] as environmentally unsound and contributing to the destruction of wilderness on the island. After the bombing, the group again recruited Hannah, a member of the punk rock group Subhumans, well known for his criticism of BC Hydro executives; and Belmas, an idealist from the suburbs who had been radicalized in the process of opposing a retail pornography outlet in her Port Coquitlam neighbourhood.[citation needed]

Litton Industries bombing[edit]

In October, 1982, the five filled a stolen pick-up truck with 550 kg (1,210 lb) of dynamite and drove from Vancouver to Toronto. Their target was Litton Industries, a company producing guidance components for the controversial American cruise missiles many feared would increase the risk of nuclear war.[1] The bomb was detonated on October 14, 1982, intended to cause only property destruction. The van was parked in full view of corporate security, with an elaborate "warning box" duct taped to the hood, displaying a message, a digital clock counting down, and a single stick of dynamite to draw attention to the danger.[citation needed] Belmas called the security desk and warned them of the explosion, giving instructions on exactly what to do and where the danger area was. The security personnel, suspecting a hoax, did not respond quickly enough to evacuate the facility before the explosion. The evacuation was just starting when the bomb detonated minutes ahead of schedule, injuring ten people. A storage area where parts were kept prior to production and the offices above and around it were damaged. There was no damage to the back of the factory, where the guidance system was assembled.[citation needed]

'Wimmin's Fire Brigade' and Red Hot Video firebombing[edit]

Red Hot Video is part of a multi-billion dollar pornography industry that teaches men to equate sexuality with violence. Although these tapes violate the Criminal Code of Canada and the B.C. guidelines on pornography,all awful attempts to shutdown Red Hot Video have failed because the justice system was created and is controlled by rich men to protect their profits and property. As a result, we are left no viable alternative but to change the situation ourselves through illegal means.This is an act of self-defence against hate propaganda. We will continue to defend ourselves

Wimmin's Fire Brigade, Press Release, November 22, 1982

The bombers fled Toronto for Vancouver and ceased their activities as they moved underground together. On November 22, 1982, they emerged as part of a larger group under the name "Wimmin's Fire Brigade".[1] They subsequently firebombed three franchises of Red Hot Video, a chain of video pornography stores which had attracted the attention of feminist activists and the local community and was accused of selling snuff films as well as violent and paedothilic Pornography. The majority of the stores closed or changed names.[4]

As well as the attacks the Wimmin's Fire Brigade released various communiques and press releases up until there arrests.[citation needed]

Ann Hansen alleges in her memoirs that the police were surveilling them at the time of the Red Hot Video action, which would mean the police broke the law to get the evidence needed to proceed with the charges on the earlier bombings.[5] This is backed up by Reporter Alyn Edwards who whilst working for BCTV reported this claim and testified in court as a witness that he'd gained this information from a confidential source in the RCMP.[6]

Arrest and trial[edit]

The high-profile crimes attracted major police attention and the Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP) was closing in. On the morning of January 20, 1983, an RCMP tactical unit disguised as a road crew captured all five on the road to their training area.[7] The apprehension occurred on the Sea-to-Sky Highway, just south of Squamish, British Columbia, giving rise to the name the media attached to the group.[citation needed] Belmas, the youngest member of the group chose to represent herself.[8] The five received sentences ranging from six years to life. Only Hannah and Belmas pleaded guilty. Belmas renounced the use of violence as a means to an end and apologized to the victims. Upon hearing her sentence for life, Ann Hansen threw a tomato at the judge.[citation needed] During the trial protestors set fires in the bathrooms of the courthouse.[9]

Punk band D.O.A released a pair of benefit singles, Right to Be Wild and Burn it down for the arrested members.[10][11]


All are now out of prison.

In 2002, Ann Hansen published Direct Action: Memoirs Of An Urban Guerrilla. While she acknowledges tactical mistakes and misconceptions, Hansen maintains that her actions were justified and that capitalism should be challenged through direct action and other forms of protest.[citation needed]

After prison, Juliet Belmas attended Emily Carr University of Art and Design and completed a degree in film. She produced independent art films on the conditions of women in prison and was working on her memoirs as of 2012.[3]

In Popular Culture[edit]

In 1989, CBC Television released an award winning docudrama entitled "The Squamish Five".[12]

Caroline Adderson's novel The Sky Is Falling (2010), which portrays a group of young radicalized Canadians living communally in Vancouver in 1984, is both loosely based on these events and refers at key points to the Squamish Five.

The rock band The Dead Milkmen referenced the Squamish Five in "VCW (Veterans of A Censored World)", a live clean version of "VFW (Veterans Of A Fucked-Up World)" from their album Big Lizard in My Backyard.[citation needed]

The plot of the 1984 film Unfinished Business involves anarchists plotting to blow up a Toronto factory that produces parts for nuclear weapons.

See also[edit]

  • Action directe - A 1970s and 1980s French urban guerrilla group
  • Green Anarchism - A branch of anarchism which puts a particular emphasis on environmental issues
  • Anarcha-Feminism - A branch of anarchism combining anarchism and feminism


  1. ^ a b c d Antliff, Allan (2004). Only a Beginning: An Anarchist Anthology. Arsenal Pulp Press. p. 75. ISBN 1-55152-167-9. Retrieved 16 May 2009.
  2. ^ Hamilton, Dwight. "Terror Threat: International and Homegrown terrorists and their threat to Canada", 2007
  3. ^ a b interview with Juliet Belmas in Earth First! Journal Archived 2012-02-25 at the Wayback Machine
  4. ^ Hansen, Ann (2001). Direct Action : memoirs of an urban guerrilla. Toronto: Between the Lines. p. 301. ISBN 9781902593487.
  5. ^ Hansen, Ann (2001). Direct Action : memoirs of an urban guerrilla. Toronto: Between the Lines. p. 348. ISBN 9781902593487.
  6. ^ "Squamish Five - YouTube". www.youtube.com. Archived from the original on 2021-02-15. Retrieved 2021-01-17.
  7. ^ Hamilton, Dwight. "Inside Canadian Intelligence", 2006
  8. ^ "R. v. Belmas". www.uniset.ca. Retrieved 2021-02-15.
  9. ^ Kronbauer, Bob. "Will we soon see a repeat of the Squamish Five domestic terrorism acts of the 80s?". vancouver is awesome. Archived from the original on 17 January 2021. Retrieved 17 January 2021.
  10. ^ "D.O.A. Right to Be Wild - 7". Canuckistan Music. Retrieved 2021-02-15.
  11. ^ Meissner, Dirk (April 27, 1983). "D.O.A Rocks Strand". Kamloops News. p. B6.
  12. ^ Donovan, Paul. Cinema Canada, "The Squamish Five", January 1989

External links[edit]