Toronto mayor blasted for handshake with Hells Angels

Toronto Mayor Mel Lastman is being blasted in Ontario and Quebec for shaking the hand of a Hells Angels member.

There is outrage in Toronto, across Ontario, and in Quebec over an ill-timed handshake between Toronto Mayor Mel Lastman and a member of the Hells Angels. And adding to the controversy is Lastman's attempt to explain himself by saying he didn't know who the Hells Angels are.

Both Toronto Police Chief Julian Fantino and the head of the Toronto Police Union Craig Bromell say Lastman's ignorance has only strengthened the motorcycle gang in Ontario.

"I mean we have to fight these people (the Hells Angels)," said Bromwell. "And what I'm worried about is that the spin is going to be the mayor, and not the bikers. And I don't want that to happen."

Lastman doesn't think he made a mistake by paying the Hell's Angels a visit. But those who know about the gang say otherwise.

Montreal Mayor Gerald Tremblay has said he would never shake the hand of a Hells Angel. And Helene Brunet, who was shot four times after getting caught in a biker war shootout, told Radio Canada (the CBC's French language service) she can't understand why Lastman embraced the gang.

But Fantino says a prolonged debate about Mel Lastman's actions only buys the Hells Angels more time to infiltrate Ontario.

"I wanted to just make sure that we don't get sidetracked. We've got issues to deal with. We've got all kinds of concerns about our ability to keep pace with organized crime," he said.

Both Fantino and Bromell say there are serious consequences for treating the Hells Angels as lightly as the mayor did. They worry that without strong action now, Toronto could end up with the same gang battles as in Montreal.