What Killed Jane Creba by Anita Arvast

Subtitled Rap, Race, and the Invention of a Gang War, What Killed Jane Creba (2016, Dundurn) is an investigative look into the circumstances surrounding the accidental shooting death of a girl in downtown Toronto in 2005.

“What killed Jane Creba is the same thing that kills anyone in an impoverished culture: a loss of hope.”

It was Boxing Day (December 26th) and Jane Creba was in downtown Toronto outside the Eaton Center with thousands of other people. Some of those in the crowd were some young black men with a grudge against one another. Shots were fired and Jane Creba was fatally shot with one bullet. But who was the shooter? What led to these men being outside the Eaton Center that day? Were they members of rival gangs? Those are the questions Anita Arvast tries to answer in her revealing and insightful book.

Jane Creba’s shooting led to a massive media outcry which led to the Toronto Police assigning an inordinate amount of their resources to finding the killer. Was this because Jane was a white girl? The author says, yes sadly. The deaths of some of the young black men associated with those in downtown Toronto that day were not investigated as fully. One of those men was Eric Boateng:

Eric’s violent daytime murder took place near the Don Jail. Police reported that they were looking for “a guy in baggy pants and a black hat.” Hardly the same police hunt that Jane Creba had. They never found Eric’s killer. Go figure.

Ms. Arvast (a professor of literature and cultural studies at Georgian College) tries to help us to understand where these men came from, and why they act as they do. The victims of poverty, broken homes, absentee parents, they form allegiances to one another, as a replacement for family. Drugs and music (particularly rap) figure prominently as an escape from the dismal daily life in Toronto’s various housing projects. These are not gangs, as we think of them from what we see on U.S. television and movies. The Toronto media invented that angle for it was convenient to do so, and gangs make news. A few angry young men? Not as newsworthy.

What Killed Jane Creba is written in a stark, hard-nosed manner befitting the subject. In the Epilogue, Ms. Arvast tries to enlighten as to the core of the problems that led up to Jane’s death:

What killed Jane Creba is the same thing that kills anyone in an impoverished culture: a loss of hope.

This applies not only to African-Canadians, but aboriginals as well, she explains. Racism is not a thing of the past. It is alive and well, as events in the U.S. have recently demonstrated. I found it interesting because while I was living in Toronto in 2005 (and close to “the Jungle” hood), the media had such a field day with the shooting that the real story was buried or was never truly investigated or lost in all the sensationalism. A fine example of good investigative journalism, What Killed Jane Creba will be of particular interest to those in fields such as social justice, race relations, community services and anyone with an interest in the justice system.

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