Squamish Five

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The Squamish Five (sometimes referred to as the Vancouver Five)[1] were a group of self-styled "urban guerrillas" active in Canada during the early 1980s. Their chosen name was Direct Action.

The five were Ann Hansen, Brent Taylor, Juliet Caroline Belmas, Doug Stewart and Gerry Hannah. They were activists who had become disenchanted and frustrated with traditional methods of activism, believing that by engaging in semi-symbolic propaganda by the deed, they could jolt people into action themselves.[citation needed]

Early actions

The first actions associated with the group included vandalizing the headquarters of Amax, a mining company which had been granted a special exemption from environmental laws,[citation needed] and offices of the British Columbia Ministry of Environment.[2]

After these actions, the group dispersed. Belmas and Hannah retreated to the Rocky Mountains, and Hansen, Taylor, and Stewart moved underground together, becoming more militant. They began training with stolen weapons in a deserted area north of Vancouver, and stole a large cache of dynamite used for construction work. They supported themselves through various forms of fraud and theft.

Bombing campaigns

Cheekye-Dunsmuir bombing

On 30 May 1982, Hansen, Taylor, and Stewart traveled to Vancouver Island and set off a large bomb at the Dunsmuir BC Hydro substation causing $5 million in damages.[1] Four transformers were damaged beyond repair, but no one was injured. The hydroelectric project had been criticized by some as environmentally unsound and contributing to the destruction of wilderness on the Island. After the bombing, the group again recruited Hannah, a member of the punk rock group Subhumans, well known for his criticism of BC Hydro executives; and Belmas, an idealist from the suburbs who had been radicalized in the process of opposing a retail pornography outlet in her Port Coquitlam neighbourhood.

Litton Industries bombing

In October, 1982, the five filled a stolen pick-up truck with 550 kg of dynamite and drove from Vancouver to Toronto. Their target was Litton Industries, a company producing guidance components for the controversial American cruise missiles many feared would increase the risk of nuclear war.[1] The bomb was detonated on October 14, 1982, and was intended to cause only property destruction. The van was parked in full view of corporate security, with an elaborate "warning box" duct taped to the hood, displaying a message, a digital clock counting down, and a single stick of dynamite to draw attention to the danger. Belmas called the security desk and warned them of the explosion, giving instructions on exactly what to do and where the danger area was. The security personnel, however, suspected a hoax, and did not respond quickly enough to evacuate the facility before the explosion. The evacuation was just getting started when the bomb detonated minutes ahead of schedule, injuring ten people. Meanwhile, at the back of the factory, where the guidance system was being produced, no damage was done. The only damage was to the Storage area where the parts were held before production, and the offices above and around the storage area.

Red Hot Video firebombing

The bombers fled Toronto for Vancouver and ceased their activities as they moved underground together. On November 22, 1982, they re-emerged as part of a larger group under the name "Wimmin's Fire Brigade".[1] They subsequently firebombed three franchises of Red Hot Video, a chain of video pornography stores which had attracted the attention of feminist activists and was accused of selling snuff films. The majority of the stores either closed or changed names. Due to the attention focused on the stores by the action, pressure was put on government to change laws so that that type of violent pornography could not be sold in Canada, resulting in charges and fines against the Red Hot Videos store in Victoria BC, Canada.


The high-profile crimes had also attracted major police attention and the Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP) was closing in. On the morning of January 20, 1983, all five were captured on the road to their training area by an RCMP tactical unit disguised as a road crew.[3] The apprehension occurred on the Sea-to-Sky Highway, just south of Squamish, giving rise to the name the media attached to the group. The five received sentences ranging from six years to life. Only Hannah and Belmas, the youngest member, pled guilty. Belmas renounced the use of violence as a means to an end and apologized to the victims. Upon hearing her sentence for life, Ann Hansen threw a tomato at the judge.

All are now out of prison. Ann Hansen alleges in her memoirs that the police had them under surveillance at the time of the Red Hot Video action, which would mean the police broke the law in order to get the evidence needed to proceed with the charges on the earlier bombings.

In 2002, Ann Hansen's Direct Action: Memoirs Of An Urban Guerrilla was published. While she acknowledges tactical mistakes and misconceptions, Hansen maintains that her actions were justified, and that capitalism should be challenged through direct action and other forms of protest.

Juliet Belmas is also now currently working on her memoirs. [4]

In 1989, CBC Television released a docudrama entitled "The Squamish Five".[5]

Caroline Adderson's novel The Sky Is Falling (2010), which portrays a group of young radicalized Canadians living communally in Vancouver in 1984, is both loosely based on these events and refers at key points to the Squamish Five.

The rock band The Dead Milkmen referenced the Squamish Five in "VCW (Veterans of A Cultured World)", a live version of "VFW (Veterans Of A Fucked-Up World)" from their album Big Lizard in My Backyard.


  1. 1.0 1.1 1.2 1.3 Antliff, Allan (2004). Only a Beginning: An Anarchist Anthology. Arsenal Pulp Press. p. 75. ISBN 1-55152-167-9. Retrieved 16 May 2009.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  2. Hamilton, Dwight. "Terror Threat: International and Homegrown terrorists and their threat to Canada", 2007
  3. Hamilton, Dwight. "Inside Canadian Intelligence", 2006
  4. interview with Juliet Belmas in Earth First! Journal
  5. Donovan, Paul. Cinema Canada, "The Squamish Five", January 1989

External links