Montreal bikers breaking the chains of child abuse
PHOTO BY JAMES ARMSTRONG
Bikers Against Child Abuse (BACA) have recently established a chapter in Pierrefonds with the goal of helping children through the youth protection judicial system.
The newly-formed, Pierrefonds-based, Montreal Quebec Chapter of Bikers Against Child Abuse (BACA) sees members stepping up to help fill the void of support as kids navigate the legal and social systems.
“We started this organization back in November 2013,” said Chapter President CC Rider, explaining all the members of the organization use pseudonyms for security reasons. “We work with youth protection services and the police where kids are already in the judicial system,” said Rider explaining that the organization’s intent is to create a safe environment for abused children, pointing out that anonymity for the child and members of the organization is a crucial part of the process. “We are putting ourselves on the line,” he added noting that there are potential risks for family members and loved ones."
According to Rider, the past 18 months have been spent in training. BACA International, based in the United States, provides obligatory in-depth training with licensed mental health professionals on how to communicate with children, especially those coming from an abusive situation. The bikers are cleared for participation through extensive background checks including fingerprinting with the Sûreté du Québec (SQ) and the Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP). “We are specifically looking for any crimes against children,” said Rider. He also noted that members have to ride with the organization for a year before they are permitted to work with children.
“Our goal is to help remove the fear for the kids by associating them with our organization,” said Rider. “We’re not a motorcycle club, we’re not a riding club, we’re not the police and we’re not vigilantes,” he added. “Bikers go by a code, we have respect, loyalty – no one gets left behind.” When the 30-member organization - comprised of women and men - takes on a kid, the child becomes one of the family. Rider described several levels of intervention used by BACA. The first is a half hour visit by the group where the child is presented with a vest and patch to wear or not, as they choose.
“Initially, when we take on a kid, we find them two primaries,” said Rider. The child is given the telephone numbers of the primaries and can contact them at any time. It is the responsibility of the primaries to provide reassurance and support including going to the child’s home, attending court, interviews, and hearings with the child and staying with them when they are alone or frightened. The BACA mission statement emphasizes that members never go to the child’s house alone and never without the knowledge or permission of the parents or guardians. The organization aims to empower the child and the family rather than become permanently engaged as their source of power.
A second level of intervention occurs if the child feels threatened by the perpetrator of the abuse. “Sometimes, the abuser will be at large with a restraining order,” said Rider, “and will try to make contact. If that happens, we would literally camp out at the kid’s house and make sure the ‘perp’ doesn’t get anywhere near the kid or his family.” BACA does not condone violence, or support the use of aggression or physical force of any kind. However, as Rider explained, the organization is prepared to become the obstacle to any further abuse of the child. He also noted that if anyone should attempt to harm a member of the organization, the organization will respond to protect that member.
Rider said the intention of the organization is to develop relationships with youth protection organizations throughout the Greater Montreal area. “The DPJ (Direction de la Protection Centre Jeunesse de Montréal) had an increase of 30 per cent in calls over last year. They get over 230 calls per day from all over Québec,” he explained. “That’s almost ten calls per hour from kids that are in distress.”
As of mid-July, 2015, the Montreal Chapter has been certified to begin handling cases. “We have just begun approaching the Youth Services, said Rider, “and the response has been surprisingly good.” Although the organization is based in the West Island, members come from further afield from areas such as Laval, the South Shore and Vaudreuil-Soulanges.
The Montreal Chapter of BACA is part of growing biker movement in Canada with organizations in British Columbia, Saskatchewan, Manitoba, Ontario and New Brunswick. Internationally, in addition to the United States, there are organizations, in Australia, Italy, Netherlands, France, Germany, and Switzerland.
Bikers willing to take up the challenge are invited to attend one of the monthly public meetings on the first Thursday of the month.
The next meeting is Thursday, September 3, at 7:30 p.m. at OnRock Community Services, 9554 Gouin Boulevard Ouest, Pierrefonds. As the BACA credo puts it, “I am a member of Bikers Against Child Abuse. The die has been cast. The decision has been made. I have stepped over the line. I won’t look back, let up, slow down, back away, or be still…I won’t give up, shut up, let up, until I have stayed up, stored up, prayed up, paid up, and showed up for all wounded children.”
Kids and families needing help are encouraged to call the Helpline at (438) 794-6200.