Paul Cherry, Montreal Gazette
A Hells Angel who became a Buddhist while serving time behind bars for taking part in Quebec’s biker war has seen a condition attached to his statutory release changed so he can continue his studies.
Last week, Mario Auger, 51, a full-patch member of the Hells Angels’ chapter in Quebec City since 1998, made a request before the Parole Board of Canada asking it to modify a condition that barred him from entering establishments that serve alcohol. The condition was one of a series imposed on him on Nov. 14, 2018, after he automatically qualified for a statutory release after having served two-thirds of the 91-month sentence he received for his role in the war over drug trafficking turf between the Hells Angels and other criminal organizations that stretched from 1994 to 2002.
Auger is also not allowed to wear any gang symbols or meet with anyone who has a criminal record during the rest of his sentence.
More than 160 people were killed during the war, including several innocent victims. Auger was arrested in 2009 as part of Operation SharQc, an investigation that revealed every member of the Hells Angels in 1994 voted in favour of taking part in the war when it started that summer.
SharQc was based primarily on evidence provided by Sylvain Boulanger, a former Hells Angel who became an informant. In 1994, Boulanger was assigned to gather all of the votes recorded by the gang’s chapters in Montreal, Sherbrooke, Trois-Rivières and Quebec City. But he was also able to supply evidence that some Hells Angels were directly involved in some of the murders. For example, he told the police that, in 2000, he did surveillance on Daniel Savard, a man tied to the rival Rock Machine gang, and advised Auger that their target could easily be shot from a distance while Savard relaxed at his home. Savard was killed on Feb. 10, 2000, in Ste-Catherine-de-la-Jacques-Cartier, a small town west of Quebec City.
In 2013, Auger pleaded guilty to having conspired to commit murder and was sentenced to an overall prison term of 25 years. It was one of the longest sentences delivered in Operation SharQc. But, based on a very complicated formula, Auger only had 14 years to serve when he was sentenced on Aug. 30, 2013. Then, in 2016, the Quebec Court of Appeal reduced Auger’s sentence to 91 months after the credibility of Boulanger’s evidence was challenged during a jury trial. The appeal court decision also reduced Auger’s statutory release date. Instead of having to wait until 2022, he automatically qualified for the release last year because he was never previously granted parole.
According to a written summary of the decision made by the parole board in 2018, Auger became a Buddhist while he was behind bars, but was unwilling to quit the Hells Angels. Since Buddhists seek to achieve enlightenment — a state of inner peace and wisdom — through meditation, it could be argued that being a Hells Angel in Quebec while also being a Buddhist represents a dichotomy. But when he was granted the statutory release in 2018, Auger told the parole board he was sorting things out and wanted to remain a member of the world’s most notorious outlaw motorcycle gang. He also explored Indigenous spirituality with a First Nations elder while behind bars.
At least two other Hells Angels based in Quebec have told the parole board they turned to Buddhist philosophies while incarcerated, but they also said they had quit the gang. The parole board noted in 2018 that Auger had taken part in all of the gatherings that fellow Hells Angels held inside the penitentiary where he was incarcerated, but that he didn’t use his status in the gang to intimidate other inmates.
Auger also told the parole board last year that he planned to study at a university as part of his release plan. It appears his efforts to pursue a university degree are the reason why he recently convinced the parole board to modify the condition that forbids him from being inside a bar or other establishments that serve alcohol.
While part of the written summary obtained by the Montreal Gazette is redacted, it appears that Auger plans to attend a university that has bars on its campuses or restaurants that serve alcohol. The parole board agreed to modify the condition to one that will allow him to be in establishments approved by his parole officer. The board noted that Auger has so far respected the conditions imposed on him to the letter and appears to be “engaged” in his studies