Jane Creba

BereavementI'm still getting a number of visits from people searching for information about Jane Creba, the 15-year old victim of the Boxing Day shooting in downtown Toronto. I just permanently archived all of December's entries, so here are the ones relating to Jane and the violent tragedy that took her young life.

I don't want this swept under the rug as last week's hot topic. I think it's important that this dialogue continue. Share your thoughts in this simple form and I'll copy and paste your submission verbatim.

52 victims of gunfire on our streets in 2005 constitutes a problem. Constructive expression is the first step towards a solution. Write, Toronto?

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Emilia Liz

Hi! I know this is coming a little late, but I thought you might be interested in my thoughts on Jane Creba. (Note: the word "liberal" in my essay is with a small l; it doesn't refer to a political party.)

A Perspective on Jane Creba’s Death

I clearly remember the day Jane Creba died. I was returning home from a haircut in Toronto’s Chinatown, and as I passed by the Eaton Centre, I noticed that Yonge Street was closed off and several police cars were parked nearby. A shooting had occurred, somebody said. I had half a mind to investigate the matter further, but my better judgement prevailed and I continued walking along Dundas Street.

The next day more details about the crime emerged. A woman had been killed, caught in the crossfire of what appeared to be gang warfare. Her name was Jane Creba, and she was a fifteen-year-old student at Riverdale Collegiate Institute. Within a week a memorial was set up at the spot where she was shot, with hundreds of passersby leaving flowers, stuffed animals and other paraphernalia there.

Jane Creba’s death was the 78th murder of 2005, a relatively high number compared to previous years. People wondered aloud whether Toronto was safe anymore. After all, if Ms. Creba could be shot on a busy downtown street in broad daylight while doing nothing more dangerous than looking for Boxing Day sales, anybody could be shot. Another fact that stood out was that Creba was White and her shooters were Black. Memories of the Just Desserts slaying more than a decade earlier, in which a young Greek-Canadian girl by the name of Georgina Leimonis was killed at a popular Toronto eatery during a robbery by several Black youths, came flooding back. And as in the Just Desserts incident, there was no shortage of commentary on the Creba case.

Like vultures gnawing at a corpse, White Supremacists, not surprisingly, jumped on Ms. Creba’s death to spout off on the supposed dangers of non-White immigration to Canada. Individuals who hadn’t given a hoot about her during her lifetime suddenly acted as if she were a long-lost sister. Even American racists like the Stormfront White Nationalist Community sat up and took notice.

But liberals of all colours weren’t above using Jane’s demise to advance their own causes either. Some blamed the actions of the young men who shot her on former Ontario Premier Mike Harris’ cutbacks to social programs. “These are the children of Mike Harris” became a familiar refrain. Racism was also proffered as an explanation. Toronto Sun columnist Rachel Giese, who is White, suspected that part of the reason for these youths’ involvement in crime was that “for their entire lives, they were made to feel worthless, that they didn’t matter and that if they died no one would hold a vigil or mourn.”

Ms. Giese wrote as well, “Whatever side of the gun they’re on, young, poor Black men are in crisis.” Indeed, a disproportionate number of the homicides committed in Toronto in 2005 involved Blacks, both as perpetrators and as victims. Many, though by no means all, of the latter had previous criminal records. This thus begs the question: why are Blacks overrepresented in crime in comparison to their numbers in the population? The reason traditionally given by liberals - like Rachel Giese - is racism, with poverty and lack of social programs as close seconds. However, this explanation is belied by the fact that East Asians, who too have faced discrimination in Canada (the Chinese head tax, the internment of Japanese Canadians, etcetera), are on average LESS likely to engage in crime than Whites are. So while I certainly won’t deny the existence of racism in this country or the possibility it may have played some part in the Creba and Leimonis shootings, something else is clearly going on here.

It is also an open secret that most of the “Black” crime in Toronto is committed by people from the island of Jamaica. Jamaica, as it happens, has one of the highest murder rates in the world – so much so that it’s lost favour as a tourist destination in the last twenty years or so. Globe and Mail columnist Margaret Wente put it this way: “The violent culture of Jamaica sheds far more light on Toronto’s gun-and-gang problem than [Mike] Harris’ cruel decision to shut down the Anti-Racism Secretariat.”

Nonetheless, I can’t let Whites completely off the hook for many of the problems within the Black community. At this point, though, much of the blame lies not with the White Supremacists – whom, let me be clear, I find odious – but with White so-called “progressives.” The latter, albeit unintentionally, have set in place a series of social trends that have proven disastrous to the Black population (not that they’ve been good for Whites). I cite here the writings of a young Asian-American man named Arthur Hu. He chastises liberals for “promoting drugs, promiscuity and abdication of personal responsibility.” Take the issue of drugs. One of the men involved in the Just Desserts case was reported by witnesses to have been high on something when he fired the shot that killed Georgina Leimonis. A good number of the gang-related shootings in Toronto have involved conflicts over drug deals or dealers’ “territory.” As one poster to a website stated, some young Black men get involved in selling and distributing illegal substances because there is an eager and willing market for them - consisting primarily of upscale Whites. But who promoted the use of drugs as “cool” and “hip?” Think of White progressives like Timothy “Expand Your Consciousness” Leary or the marijuana-loving glitterati of Ithaca, New York.

I do not, by the way, support the “War on Drugs.” For one, I think it’s both futile and wastefully expensive, and two, in a democracy we should be free to make foolish decisions. It’s something else, though, to openly encourage people to make foolish decisions or condone their doing so. For instance, it’s perfectly within my rights to dance naked on my balcony in minus 20 Celsius weather. I would also hope that if I ever showed any inclination to do such a thing, the people who claimed to care for me would tell me how incredibly stupid I was being. So by glamourizing drugs, liberals have done Blacks (and Whites, for that matter) no favour.

To end on a more upbeat note, some members of the Black population are taking measures to stem violence in their community. Here the Black church has a proactive role to play. Much attention was given to the visit to Toronto of Eugene Rivers, the African-American minister responsible for the “Boston miracle,” a series of faith-based programs that reduced crime rates in that city dramatically. Even before Rivers’ trip to Toronto, however, a number of Black pastors in the Jane-Finch neighbourhood had stepped forward to urge gang members to lay down their guns. It is in the hands of individuals like these, who are literally “on the ground” and who don’t necessarily subscribe to dogma of any political stripe, in which the Black community’s problems have the best chance of being resolved.

July 17, 2006 @ 7:48 AM


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