There are regional differences in Aboriginal-based organized crime’s (ABOC) structure and nature. In Alberta, Saskatchewan and Manitoba, ABOC is almost exclusively composed of street gangs, while in Ontario and Quebec Aboriginal-based groups located near or along the Canada/U.S. border are involved in criminal activities that facilitate cross-border smuggling and the inter- and intra-provincial distribution of contraband.
In Alberta, the predominant street gangs — REDD ALERT, INDIAN POSSE and ALBERTA WARRIORS — are based largely in the Edmonton and Calgary areas. These gangs have affiliations with other gangs in Alberta. In Saskatchewan, the primary gangs are the NATIVE SYNDICATE in Regina and the INDIAN POSSE in Saskatoon. A number of smaller, less influential street gangs are also present in the province. In Manitoba, the primary gangs are the MANITOBA WARRIORS, INDIAN POSSE and NATIVE SYNDICATE.
The gangs regularly recruit from the Aboriginal population in large and small communities, correctional institutions and on reserves. In Alberta, both the REDD ALERT and INDIAN POSSE are expanding into smaller communities from their established territories in Edmonton and Calgary. Aboriginal-based gang recruitment typically focuses on Aboriginal youth, creating the next generation of street gang members. As a result, these Aboriginal youth will be at greater risk of being involved in gang violence and activities, posing harm to themselves and their communities.
Aboriginal-based street gangs are generally involved in opportunistic, spontaneous and disorganized street-level criminal activities, primarily low-level trafficking of marihuana, cocaine and crack cocaine and, to a lesser extent, methamphetamine. The gangs are also involved in prostitution, break-and-enters, robberies, assaults, intimidation, vehicle theft and illicit drug debt collection.
Although the gangs’ capability to plan and commit sophisticated or large-scale criminal activities is low, their propensity for violence is high, posing a threat to public safety. Gangs frequently use firearms, particularly handguns, that have been either domestically stolen or smuggled from the U.S. In Alberta, rivalry between the REDD ALERT and the INDIAN POSSE has resulted in violence as both gangs attempt to establish greater market share within the illicit drug trade. Gang violence is present in a number of smaller communities. Gang structures and alliances remain fluid, resulting in short-lived splinter groups with affiliations and rivalries that regularly change and evolve. As a result, violence between gangs will continue on an intermittent basis.
ABOC supports and facilitates criminal activities for other organized crime groups, particularly the HELLS ANGELS and Asian-based networks. These two groups supply a number of Aboriginal-based street gangs with low-level quantities of illicit drugs, including marihuana, cocaine and methamphetamine.
Organized criminal activities occur on a number of reserves across the country. Aboriginal-based criminal groups, located in southern Ontario and Quebec near or along the Canada/U.S. border, are typically composed of networks of entrepreneurial individuals who act as criminal brokers on or around reserves. The brokers, often associated to Asian-based networks or the HELLS ANGELS, are involved in criminal activities that facilitate cross-border smuggling of commodities including marihuana, currency and humans.
Aboriginal-based groups associated to other organized crime groups take advantage of the reserves’ proximity to the Canada/U.S. border in order to conduct criminal activities including marihuana cultivation, organized vehicle thefts, illicit firearms activities, illegal gaming, the illicit diversion of tobacco, and drug trafficking on and between reserves. Additionally, some Aboriginal reserves have been targeted by criminal individuals to facilitate tax frauds by exploiting the taxation differences between on- and off-reserve areas.
Organized criminal activities on reserves, like in any small community, significantly affect the residents’ quality of life, sense of community and social well-being. Organized criminals can exploit the tight kinship networks in small communities, often dividing families that have members who either criminally gain or may be opposed to the criminality. In addition, depending on the nature of criminal activities undertaken, organized crime groups can pose a threat to public health and safety to those who live on and around the reserves.