PREVIOUS PODCAST: Le Sadique Meurtrier -Teresa Martin / WKT5 #3
Journalism is printing what someone else does not want printed; everything else is public relations. – George Orwell
In April 1969 Montreal Police launched La MUQ or Association of United Motorcyclists of Quebec / La Fédération des Motocyclistes unis du Québec, “formed with the full backing of government and police officials.” La MUQ’s figurehead was constable John Dalzell, a youthful cop who worked with bikers in one of Quebec’s earliest community policing programs. La MUQ was formed as a means of controlling the all-out war that had broken out between rival motorcycle gangs. Within six months, 10 clubs comprising 700 riders – the majority from the Montreal area – were brought under the umbrella of La MUQ to bring peace to the streets, or in Dalzell’s words to attain, “better club relations through sports.”
Dalzell worked for the Montreal Police’s “Youth Section’s Prevention Sub-Section”, which tells you, right out of the gate police vastly underestimated the sweeping criminal potential of bikers. Montreal Police brokered a deal with the town of Anjou and British Petroleum Limited (BP Oil) who in 1969 agreed to designate a portion of their east-end refinery campus for a biker club house and racing area, with a track for the bikers. Located at 9000 East Henri Bourassa, the biker area was vast, accommodating a “scrambling” zone, cross-country terrain and a wooded section for trail blazing.” In short, large enough where the bikers could conduct their business away from the prying eyes of the community and law enforcement.
It gets better. The Quebec provincial government awarded La MUQ a $3,600 grant to “get the association on the road“, essentially giving the bikers seed money to plant the early rooting of Quebec’s biker problem. Though well intentioned, these efforts demonstrated a complete lack of understanding of biker culture, especially the example of the Hells Angels, who were not yet established in Quebec, but nevertheless would have had a profound influence on clubs like the Death Riders, Dead Men, Cave Men, Outsiders, Les Gorilles, Playboys, Arch Angels, Phantoms and the Popeyes. As former Bandido Ed Winterhalder put it, the outlaw culture of the Hells was, “100 percent in the opposite direction that mainstream society was going in”, right down to the biker’s kiss. Contrast this with the Montreal Police’s Youth Section’s goal of achieving, “better understanding of the motorcyclists by the public.”
The inaugural event of the newly formed partnership between police and Quebec bikers was a motorcycle rally. On May 24th, 1969 police prepared for 300 MUQ members for a Saturday morning, 80-mile bike run. When 30 cyclists showed up, policed blamed the funeral of a slain biker that was held on the same morning. No doubt this was the murder of Pierre Boucher, a Popeyes MC member stabbed 58 times in a north-end park by three rivals in the Devil’s Disciples. What should have been an ominous red flag was blithely ignored by government officials who carried on with their tin-pan parade. The poor turnout didn’t stop Provincial Minister of Tourism, Fish and Game Gabriel Loubier from posing with some bikers on the seat of a jacked-up Norton gushing, “I used to ride a bike myself.”
None of this phased the Montreal Police Department. On the six-month anniversary of the founding of La MUQ they praised the program and efforts of John Dalzell. In October 1969 – about a month into the Teresa Martin murder investigation – Dalzell and 15 MUQ members met with government officials to give a progress report, or rather they intercepted Minister Loubier’s chauffeur-driven Cadillac in downtown Montreal and the squad of bikers – led by Dalzell, riding his police issued unmarked motorcycle, dressed in jeans and a brown leather jacket – escorted the tourism minister to the meeting. No one batted-an-eye at these ham-fisted stunts.
Surrounded by Loubier, Dalzell, Police Director Jean-Paul Gilbert and other Quebec officials, a scruffy looking Anthony “Tony” Gervais proceeded to give an account of how the bikers had spent $3,600 of the public’s money ( we have no record of this inventory). In his next breath Gervais asked for an expansion of the MUQ program, now requesting $15,400 for, “a winter sports program, the upkeep of the land that Ville d’Anjou and British Petroleum Canada Limited had loaned them, and the establishment of a monthly journal.” Clearly the bikers had learned very early that the key to success was to go legit. One wonders what went through the heads of the stoney-faced gentlemen in suites and ties as they sat through this spectacle. Did any of them sense the dangerous precedent, the uncomfortable alliance that was being established between the police, biker, and the Quebec government? What terrible blemish was slouching towards Ville d’Anjou?
Any early warning signs were quickly swept away by John Dalzell who explained that a “few bad apples were responsible for the bad motorcycle gang image“. He then went on to explain how the City of Montreal was now prepared to lend the bikers some prime real estate in the Plateau region to further expand their operations. “This will be our headquarters”, the young constable explained – now including himself among the membership of the group he was sworn to protect the public from – “we’re supposed to get it next week.” Dalzell ended his sermon stating the scheme to unite clubs had come a long way, “and a lot of people not directly involved think so too.” What exactly did that mean?
In November 1969, La MUQ held their first general meeting – oddly at Montreal’s Botanical Gardens – no doubt to ratify articles of incorporation and adopt the minutes of biker business (was there a quarum? Did they follow Robert’s Rules?). Again, Montreal Police Director Jean-Paul Gilbert was on hand, this time to hand out a vast array of trophies that would make the NHL awards look inadequate.
Murder, Incorporated was the brand created in the early days of the Italian-American Mafia, emphasizing how the mob had adapted the principles of American business culture. Like Murder, Inc. the Quebec bikers were learning at the hands of Quebec government agencies how to organize and pass as legitimate community members.
Not all MUQ members were hard-core bikers. Some were law-abiding motorcycle clubs trying to bridge a gap between their perceived culture and their desire to rebel under the rules of society. But the Popeyes and their most notorious member, Yves “Apache” Trudeau were also members of MUQ. They would have been cunning enough to seized the opportunity to exploit their new relationships with the police and the Quebec government. When initially approached by Dalzell to join the newly established MUQ the response from the Popeyes was said to have been “enthusiastic”.
John Dalzell was no rube. He had worked for years as an undercover narcotics agent, long-haired and bearded, infiltrating the Popeyes biker gang heroin operations. So it is surprising to find him in a 1997 Gazette piece commemorating his retirement – he ended his career as the SPVM’s director of public relations – wistfully remembering how he once gave a motorcycle ride to who the Gazette rather casually referred to as “one of Canada’s most infamous serial bombers”. “I’ll always remember the face of Yves Trudeau”, stated Dalzell. One would hope so. Trudeau was a serial killer in the employment of the Popeyes, then later with the Hells Angels, responsible for the murders of over 43 men and women.
Many would have you believe the Popeyes were misunderstood, their true purpose was to act as vigilantes protecting the under-represented and the innocent. When Johnny Hallyday toured Quebec in March of 1969, the Popeyes acted as a security detail for the famed French singer. As one MUQ supporter proclaimed the concerts “didn’t have anywhere near the same outcome” as what eventually unfolded at Altamont in December 1969 when Meredith Hunter was stabbed to death by the Hells Angels. Never mind that twenty-three kilos of heroin had been smuggled into Canada in one of Hallyday’s guitar amplifiers. When taxi drivers rioted in October 1969 about the English Murray Hill’s monopoly over Montreal’s Dorval airport, the Popeyes were there again to provide protection and an escort. Never mind that the police had gone on strike and the Popeyes seized the perfect opportunity for destruction and looting.
In the 1997 Gazette article, the early efforts of the Montreal Police through La MUQ were depicted as nothing but a success, important pioneering work of police community outreach. In Dalzell’s words:
“I got together the two heads of the Popeyes and the Devil’s Disciples. I sat them down and I said, “You guys keep on fighting, and we’re going to put you out of business.”John Dalzell, The Gazette, July 18, 1997
Commendable efforts, but the exact opposite happened. Bikers kept fighting and it could be argued the police put them in business.
In establishing La MUQ the Quebec government and the Montreal Police offered gangs like the Popeyes a road to legitimacy. You can draw a line from April 1969 all the way to August 1995 when shrapnel from a biker bomb killed 11-year Daniel Desrochers in the streets of Hochelaga-Maisonneuve. By then the biker war was in full bloom, and the Hells Angels were in complete control of the province of Quebec.
John Dalzell knew the destructive potential of gangs like the Popeyes and riders like Trudeau, yet he always held a romantic opinion of biker culture, maintaining that the warlike image of Quebec biker gangs was created by what he called, “a few bad apples in the barrel.”
“Perhaps in the future we will be able to organize sports competitions among the clubs and bring them back to their original purpose, the enjoyment of motorcycling.”John Dalzell, The Gazette, July 10, 1968
The MUQ experiment slowly petered out, going quietly into the night after three years. You never hear of La MUQ anymore, most likely because by the end of the 70s many Quebec biker gangs like the Popeyes patched over into the Hells Angels, and Quebec Police finally saw the true criminal potential of a very organized outlaw biker operation. Today La Fédération Motocycliste du Québec (now known as FMQ, the progression of MUQ) is truly a legitimate organization of amateur motorcycle enthusiasts with over 3,000 members, riding for the pleasure of the open roads of Quebec and beyond. In a way, part of John Dalzell’s earnest wish came true.
Some of you may now ask, what does La MUQ have to do with the Teresa Martin murder investigation? I am not the one making the connection between the Martin murder and a forgotten motorcycle club. It was the Quebec police in the spring of 1970 who made that connection. For more information, listen to the the next podcast episode on the Teresa Martin case.