The truth about the shooting of Jane Creba

In the spate of shootings happening in Toronto, the media continues to report that the tragic loss of this young woman back in 2005 was due to crossfire between two gangs. This continued oversimplification and misrepresentation does nothing to help deal with the real socioeconomic problems so many youth face that draws them towards drug dealing. 

On boxing day, 2005, there were rival drug dealers and there were their friends. If we don't take the time to understand the underlying issues, we cannot begin to find the solutions. 

John Tory... keep going

Well, Mayor Tory... good with the chastising of the police force in Toronto and the need to keep programs alive to help our youth.

Building jails is building cemeteries. Building communities is building life. 

Well done on having dialogue with the hip hop community. New attitudes. New efforts to communicate.


Smoke Dawg, Koba and Sick Thugz... some thoughts

So. Sick Thugz were NEVER a splinter group of Point Blank Soldiers and PBS were actually a rap group and only one person convicted in the Jane Creba murder was remotely connected with that group because his uncle was involved in it. Contrary to what the media are reporting.

Nobody else charged (or convicted) for the Creba killing was part of a gang. At the time of her killing, the real rivalry was between Sick Thugz and Silent Souljahs (also a rap group and not a "gang").

None of them were there when she was accidentally killed, as far as we know.

No doubt that Sick Thugz (formerly TnT for Turk and Tyke) do operate as a gang out of Regent Park and do target other rap groups. Whether or not Halal Gang is a real "gang" is up for debate as is the whole concept of a gang (i.e., group of people who hang out together versus group of people who are into organized crime). It seems that people of colour who congregate together keep getting painted with that same (not so) clandestinely racist brush.

Whenever there is a shooting and it's identified as "gang" related, it's bound to make the news.

The Toronto hip hop scene lost two aspiring talents. R.I.P. Smoke Dawg and Koba.

Let's just not jump to conclusions that THEY were "gang bangers". They came out of the same neighbourhood as Kardinal Offishall; the difference is that Kardinal had programs put in place by the government of the day to help aspiring artists to climb out of cycles of poverty. These were programs put in place by the NDP Ontario government of the day and Kardinal recognizes the impact they had on his life.

Let's not jump on that populist chant that black men who MAY be affiliated with gangs should not be allowed out on bail (none of which has been proven before due justice). I know this full well because of my years of watching, reading and working with the trial files of the Creba murder. And the efforts to say she was the innocent victim caught in rival gang gun fights, which was not the case.

It was rival drug dealers.

Now, I'm not so naive as to think gangs don't exist. Let's just not make that our first stop.

Real justice would be real help for so many young people who are at risk of losing their way, not by locking more up and throwing away keys. But we won't see this the way that Premier Doug Ford and Mayor John Tory are talking about our youth. 


The real gangs

The REAL gang at the time of Creba's death had to do with a couple of guys who went by the name of T and T who had targeted the Silent Souljahs rap group. (If anyone thinks I didn't do my homework, I did! There WERE gangs... just not the ones presented in the Creba trials as Silent Souljahs and Point Blank. T and T were just confused as being the same as Point Blank.)

One of the leaders of T n T nicknamed "Tyke" was a rapper but the rap was truly gangsta and about killing because that's what his gang was about. Eventually "Tyke's" gang became known as Sic(k) Thugz.

And now.... The real gansta of the Regent Park gangs was busted in Aruba for a murder.

Sick Thugz and Asian Assasins are real gangs. Point Blank and Silent Souljahs were not despite what was presented in the Creba trials. The latter two were rap groups targeted by the gangs.

These kind of details matter when our courts and media oversimplify the relationships of friends within communities and classify people into gangs because it seems like the easiest way to tell a story.…/michael-teddy-gibson-captured-aruba-1.4…


Toronto murder suspect with 'connections throughout western hemisphere' captured in Aruba

A man wanted on a countrywide warrant for first-degree murder has been arrested in the death of another man — not in Canada but on the Caribbean island of…

The questions stand

Prior to the release of the book on Jane Creba, the Toronto Star was very interested in promoting it. Maybe they got busy. My publicist heard nothing back after it was released.

Here's my take: Maybe I asked too many questions about the media's handling of the court case and argued that the public only gets the prosecution's perspective when we read the papers and watch the news? It saddens me.

Got a really cool bite from a reader...

"book was great. certainly an eye opener. Have you had any friction from the officers that you named? Have any of the young men you focused on read the book?

Here’s a twist. Had the system diverted the money it cost to imprison these guys for years into better legal counsel or some sort of locked down community teaching / trade rehab, maybe a music studio, perhaps we’d see a change."

In answer. Thanks. No friction with anyone. It's a problem when you raise issues and everyone is quiet.

And the twist. Let's see it. I think we are starting with a review of the SIU. Hopefully our systems respect the voices with the courage. Power on people like Valerie Steele.


Bloody Justice... and the story should be told

It was just a little over 10 years ago that eight men lost their lives at a farmhouse near Shedden, Ontario... just outside of London. Most people didn't care about the men who were murdered and the families they left behind. Most people didn't care about the men who were convicted and many of them wrongfully. Most people didn't care to hear the true story. Because we were told what the media told us: bikers killing bikers in a premeditated cold blood murder. As the key crown witness (and one of the killers) admitted on the stand with tears flowing down his face, "There was never a plan". MH, (a killer and key crown witness) left the courtroom for a couple of days so he could recompose himself. The prosecution needed him to get his story straight.

Fortunately a film maker is interested in telling the truth I told in my book.

Bloody Justice: The Truth Behind the Bandidos Massacre at Shedden.

The truth should continue to be told. More to come.

Silent Souljahs error in my book and on my web site

A reviewer of my book on Jane Creba pointed out that I had the wrong representation of the Silent Souljahs of Regent Park and said "there were huge holes" in my understanding as a result.  I had quoted a rap group out of the U.S. and figured them in my book as well as on my web site as being part of Regent Park.  I'm sorry that I got this piece wrong in my research.

I thought about pulling down the video I have on my website because of this error. But then I figured I should just be honest. It's an awesome video by a rap group of the same name. I'm pretty sure the video speaks to exactly the same issues we face all over North America whether you live with palm trees or maple trees.

The reviewer said there were gaps in truth. I think that was the point of my writing this book.

Here's what the reviewer said:

"☆☆☆☆☆ 2 out of 5 stars.

Some good info but lots of holes and misinformation

The book wasn't bad but there was a lot of wrong info.

The Silent Souljah's songs that the author made reference to were that of an American group by the same name, she viewed it on youtube and couldn't even figure out that it was the wrong group.

Made reference to the wrong gangs when discussing Martha Eaton Way. No inside info whatsoever.

The author did not have any real access to info other then wiretaps and court cases as a lot of the info regarding the people involved was totally off.

The Regent Park beef is a lot deeper than a track not being played at a club. TNT represent both the South and North Regent (Turk from the North, Tyke from the South) and Point Blank in majority represented the Southside.

Way too many holes.

And remember a little girl was shot and killed, not enough respect to a 15 year old that lost her life in this book.

✘ No,

I do not recommend this product."

Trust me. I was working with far more than just trial files. And so much fluidity between what was told and what never gets told. I'm rather sorry that a reviewer with so much insider information discourages readers from asking for answers. "Case closed" instead of a question mark?

That was the whole point of not using a question mark in the title of the book.

Terrorist killed in confrontation

I don't understand why this young man couldn't just have been subdued and us all try to understand why he felt such hatred. We can't kill hate and this sort of action just fuels those who feel it. Of course, I'm not a police officer dealing.... 

Here's a thought....

Not more police officers hired as that sends the wrong message. How about we focus on training our current officers in mental health, radicalization, racial tensions, deescalation, i.e., trying to work together and not cause greater conflict. We can't shoot at anger and expect there won't be more blood shed.


I spent four years researching and writing my latest book. When I was writing, I didn't anticipate the racial violence we've recently witnessed in the US. . I sprinkled my first chapter very late in the writing process with some recent stories. Naively I thought we would deal with racism in a real way once the riots had erupted in Baltimore after the death of Freddie Gray.

Clearly we haven't dealt.

Acknowledgement of racism in policing is our first step. Stop the denial. Understanding the rage expressed by those who have felt oppressed is our next step.




Let's work Together... Shall we?


So here I am sitting in a bar with folks who actually care about social justice issues. We're talking and it gets heated. 

Here's what we chat about: In Toronto the Black Lives Matter group interrupted the Pride Parade by essentially putting their issues ahead of other minorities. Black Lives Matter in Toronto demanded that police floats of LGBTQ not be allowed to participate and they then interrupted the parade.

Here's my one thought: not cool.

It's the job of activists to support each other, not interrupt what was intended as a day to recognize the challenges of the LGBTQ community. Even police officers can be discriminated against when they belong to a community that has historically faced discrimination.


Oh... Canada

Let's stop being too polite to talk about it.

Racism is alive here too. Let's stop just looking south at the extreme actions while shaking our heads. Navel gazing in Canada is required. America is bold and out there. We are muted.

I remember my first trip to Boston. It was 1982 and I was stupidly 20. I was astonished that the white people walked on one side of the street and the blacks on the other. I knew there were tensions between the Irish and the Italians but I never expected Boston to be racially biased. I took a bus out to see Harvard because I figured someone interested in academics even at a young age should have a view of an ivy league school. On my way back to my hotel on the bus I was somewhat charmed by an action of a young woman on the bus. She yelled out: "stop here". I hailed from Toronto and we would never be so bold. But the bus stopped and she exited -- well distanced from any formal bus stop.  To me that was a differentiating moment between what it meant to be American and what it meant to be Canadian. I was taken aback at first. How dare one be so bold (which I thought was rude).

I love being a polite Canadian and from a nation that has humility and peace keeping at its core. But as I enter my later years I think back to my Boston experience and the need to dare to be so bold as to say "stop here."






Voltaire's Bastards

This summer I decided I would not write and research. It's the first summer off from such activity in twelve years. I decided instead I would read some of the books I've been putting off. John Ralston Saul's Voltaires Bastards was one such book that has sat on my shelf staring at me with the Magritte images of elites floating on clouds. I'm shyly admitting that it has sat there for so long... a "to do" that didn't get done. You know those books?

I fell in love on page eight with these words:

When we look around at the influence and strength of money, of armies, of legal officials, or indeed at the ease with which writers are silenced by censorship, violence and imprisonment, it seems that the word is fragile. But one step back from this immediacy is enough to reveal the power of language. Nothing frightens those in authority as much as criticism.

I'll finish the book this summer. And then I'll get back to my work.


I have three children. All teenagers. I can't even begin to imagine any of their lives ended by bullets. My hope in writing this book was to see fewer children die and for us to garner sympathy for each other. Some folks have read the book and thought that I've blamed racism for the death of Jane Creba. It's bigger than just racism.

Thoughts on my interview with a news writer...

I send prayers first before I write this blog. Not in a religious fashion but hopefully a spiritual one that intends to recognize we are all in this together and all here to caretake each other on this planet.

Dear USA. Your guns have come north and caused carnage on our streets. When “the right to bear arms” became a part of the constitution, the people who penned it only imagined foreign invaders – not people hunting their own with anything stronger than a musket. So much to grieve. I will argue that the NRA is an organization that is not dissimilar to any other group of extremists.

Dear Canada. We have much work to do in teaching our youth that there are better ways out of poverty than through drug and gun crimes.

When writing a book about true crime that endeavours to critique systems, the author has to necessarily be expecting critique returned.

Aim barbs and expect a volley. Like gunfire but much safer and hopefully productive.

My book about the Jane Creba murder is no different than my book about the Bandidos or my Ph.D. dissertation or any smaller pieces of work I have written wherein I ask us how we will move forward in our society unless we think critically about our behaviours, our expectations, our systems and our prejudices. 

I welcome the critiques. I welcome all the feedback.

But here’s a frustration. I was interviewed about the book by a journalist who sought some insight into gangs in Toronto. We had a great chat. He was confused by the response he received from the Toronto Police spokesperson who said they would not entertain reading the book let alone respond to it. So here's the thing. A news story about gangs in Toronto and all the hype this year as a new "year of the gun" takes place got canned because the Toronto police spokesperson refused to read my recent book and provide commentary on the murder and issues of systemic discrimination I raised that continue to be problematic for all of us.

Dear North American and European cities. We deserve police forces that will answer to very real concerns that there are racial injustices alive and well.

Thank you to police

Never do I want my words to hurt anyone. I know some police officers have taken offense to what I write, but I remind everyone that I write about systems... not individuals and their own commitments to the law.

Today we witnessed a mass execution in Florida and the police responded with brilliance and courage against someone armed beyond what I believe his legal rights should be.

But I'm Canadian and continue to watch the contraband come up north killing our kids and forcing our own systems to deal.

When the American constitution was penned, no one had ever imagined assault weapons taking out one's own people. Someone brilliant who I know suggests that the NRA consider the real concept of the "Right to bear arms" - it was gun powder and a ball. That's it.

Do we need a wall? Or do we maybe need some sense?

Walruses in Canada

We don't actually live much with walruses in Canada. They reside far north and they tend to be quiet critters who want to protect their tusks much like elephants in other parts of the world where ivory seems to be important. In Canada, we live with a wonderful Walrus - a magazine that engages quality discourse. The journal doesn't need to protect ivory as some last bastion of a piano sonata but protects the integrity of the entire orchestra of truth telling. I felt honoured to be tweeted today by editor in chief, Jonathan Kay.

Reading @aarvast's "What Killed Jane Creba" & found this meditation on truth-telling in true-crime on her site.

"As a true crime writer, I rely on omission in a number of ways.

My first impulse is to ensure that nobody will ever be hurt by what I write… but there is a story to be told and so people will be hurt when I peel back layers of fabrication and other omissions. These ellipses hurt.

An ellipsis also can signify that I left out stuff that doesn’t matter. I’m cool with that version because usually it’s just a bunch of dribble between the important stuff.

But there’s another version of ellipses that is the scariest. It’s at the end of a sentence. It’s where we say we have told a story and don’t know where to go.

That’s the


I’m pretty sure anyone who writes with a social justice bent is scared of these."

Thank you. @jonkay

Frustration on many fronts

Writing about big challenges in our society is fraught with smaller but equally difficult challenges. I had a wonderful interview with a CBC reporter who said that the news story had to be canned because the Toronto police refused to address the book and the topic... and the editor thought the story would be too biased without that input.  The  police spokesperson frankly told the interviewer that they would not be reading the book. 

The interviewer told me that s/he was surprised by such a staunchly negative response and asked if I had anticipated it.

"Yes" was my answer.

When you ask tough questions you have to anticipate substantial criticism and to dig deep for the courage to continue.

Our police services have admitted there are problems and have brought in consultants to deal with the concerns. Our governments have admitted that change is needed in the criminal justice system. Guns are a problem. But so is poverty.  So is racism. So is a simplistic perspective.

Today my friends in policing have said that my book is being spoken of as “that gang banger book”.

I have asked every one of us to be introspective. I invite everyone to read the book and try to do so with an open mind.

This book is not about individuals inside policing, the courts, social work, education or any other system where discrimination resides. I am not the enemy. I am only a voice asking for reflection and redirection of resources.

And today Toronto Mayor John Tory referred to “thugs” in Toronto in the escalation of gun violence.

Can we stop using this language…. these categories…?

Book Launch

I felt truly honoured to be joined by so many at the launch of What Killed Jane Creba: Rap, Race and the Invention of a Gang War on June 4th in Barrie. I shared my experiences with the research, some of the challenges I faced, a bit of a reading and some of the videos of Toronto hip hop artists whose work had certainly inspired the direction of the writing. This is a shout out to all those who joined me live.  And to all of you who were there with me in spirit.