There are a total of eight witnesses who are co-operating with the Crown, and the judge does not want them identified for their own safety. I think it's important to know that one of the protected men, now known as Person X, has already admitted to shooting three of the six victims.
Of course, since the Surrey Six killings are essentially the best example of the Vancouver area's gang culture gone awry, my book makes several references to the men whose identities are now protected. So you can no longer legally buy my book in Canada.
I have a few problems with that.
The first is that the ban is hardly universal. If you want, you can find the protected men's names online without looking very hard. They are sprinkled all over the Internet, on blogs, on Facebook, on Twitter and, especially, in forums and comments on posts related to the case.
Of course, anybody who publishes the names in any form is liable to punishment, but the Internet is a poorly policed place. It reminds me of one of the witnesses in the Jonathan Madden murder I wrote about in "Rage" (who I couldn't name then because she was not yet 18). While she was giving testimony that could have swayed the jury into or out of convicting the three suspects, she was also posting online about the act she was putting on and how she was playing the judge and lawyers for suckers. If she hadn't given a reporter she liked her secret email address, nobody would have known because nobody would have looked. Similarly, all of the parties involved who were under 18 were identified on several websites, and still are.
The second is that is you want to buy the book, you can, and almost certainly have no problems with it. It's illegal to buy the book, and I would not recommend it to anyone, but it is possible. It's available at several U.S. online retailers who will sell it to you and send it to your Canadian address.
There is a microscopic chance that your package could be stopped and the border and searched, and an even smaller chance that the person doing so would recognize that the book should not be sold here, but that's unlikely to happen. One big problem is -- and this is ironic considering that the book is actually about people getting rich from selling drugs because their illegality guarantees a huge profit margin -- that it'll cost you.
New copies of the book are now selling for about 10 times the cover price. And that's without an autograph. Someone's making money off it, but it's not me or my publisher.
Finally, I think this particular publication ban is kind of ridiculous. Anyone with even the most remote interest in or knowledge of the case knows the names of the men currently protected by the bans. So in essence, the bans are not protecting the witnesses from parties interested in seeing them harmed (the gangsters know very well who they are), but from the Canadian public, who are once again deprived of the right to know what's going on.
That's not to say all publication bans are wrong. Those that prevent the identities of victims of crimes, especially those of a sexual nature, make perfect sense, as do those that keep the names of young offenders (whose cases are not serious enough for them to be tried as adults).
And I understand that without witnesses, there would not be very many convictions, so deals have to be made. While Canadians were outraged that Karla Homolka received a 12-year sentence for her involvement in the rapes and murders of three girls (including her own sister), there is little to suggest that she or her husband, Paul Bernardo, would have been convicted without her testimony.
But nobody knew that at the time. Canada's most famous publication ban was applied to the Bernardo-Homolka case, banning any but the most basic information from being published. At the time, as someone who had inside information about the trial, I was very popular and invited to many parties in hopes I'd spill.
What I noticed at the time was that if the publication ban was intended to get Canadians to stop talking about the case, it actually had the opposite effect. Much of what I heard at the time -- a lot of it from members of the media -- were outlandish and totally untrue "facts" that had been heard from friends and others not related to the case.
That's the problem with publication bans. I'm not sure that preventing the public from knowing the truth, especially if it's for "their own good," is really a smart idea.
But what stands out about the publication ban regarding Homolka is that her identity was not concealed. It would have been ridiculous because, as with the Surrey Six case, everybody knew who she was. Instead, she spent her 12 years in prison and was put into witness protection upon her release.
If keeping the identity of Homolka -- maybe the most hated woman in Canadian history -- public did not harm her or the case against her and Bernardo, it's unlikely that naming the names in the Surrey Six case will harm them or the case. But it would keep the Canadian public out of the dark.
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