Why a once criminal, now artist Mayne Champagne turned his own mother in to police

Why a once criminal, now artist Mayne Champagne turned his own mother in to police

Jermaine Lawrence was at a "crossroads" when he spotted a woman he recognized on television: it was his mother, and she was wanted by police.

Cops didn't know her identity at the time, but earlier that day in November 2015, the woman had sprayed an acid-like substance on a three-year-old boy at the Humber Cinemas theatre before fleeing the scene. 

"I was in shock and in disbelief," said Jermaine, who's now pursuing a music and acting career under the name Mayne Champagne. 

After spending his youth running away from authorities and almost eight years in and out of prison, Champagne was faced with a difficult choice. This was the protective if "overly religious" woman who had raised him on her own in Scarborough, he thought to himself.

"I was conflicted because my street values told me not to deal with the police," Champagne said.

At the same time, he worried if he did nothing, she might end up in trouble again. So after consulting with other family members, Champagne made the "tough decision" to report his mother to the police.

"It's not an easy thing," he said. "I thought it was the right thing to do."

His mom was arrested and the charges against her were dropped.

'Emotional decisions'

It had been about two years since Champagne was released from prison, where he had spent much of his youth and early adulthood. In total, he served three separate terms and almost eight years total behind bars for robbery and weapon possession.

Champagne's first stint in jail was for two years as a youth in 1999 for a home invasion. A year after his release, he was arrested and incarcerated for an armed robbery of a store and sentenced to four years at Joyceville Penitentiary in Kingston, Ont. 

"I was making emotional decisions, not based off of logic," said Champagne, adding he was angry for not having his father around in his teenage years.

Champagne says he began "hanging out with bad company" — drinking, doing and selling drugs, and eventually getting involved in robberies. 

"I'm out there fending for myself and nobody's really guiding me in the right direction," he said of his younger years.

His last arrest was in 2010 for weapon possession, when he and two others intended to kill someone who got away and called the cops on them. He went on to serve time at Collins Bay Penitentiary and was granted an early release in 2013.

'She's not the woman who raised me'

When Champagne, now in his 30s, looks back on his childhood, he recalls a fiercely protective single mother who tried to set a straight and narrow path for her only child.

Paul Borkwood/CBC

That's why it's so difficult for him to see his mother, who he says suffers from schizophrenia, deteriorate.

"She's not the woman who raised me," he says.

His mother worked as a nurse, was heavily involved in her church and enrolled in piano lessons, Champagne told CBC News. Early on, Champagne knew he wanted to pursue music as a career, but says his mother didn't support his taste in it. 

"I had to hide tapes from my mom because she viewed [them] as secular music and it had no room in her house," he said of his mother.

Champagne said he doesn't keep in direct touch with his mother, saying she refuses to get help and has been bouncing between shelters. 

"I can only pray for and just hope that she gets better," he said.

Working towards a future

Champagne's mother's state is what pushes him to "go harder" with his music and keep crime out of his life, he says.

His hope is that the more money he makes, the more options he will have to get his mother help.

Champagne acknowledges he's no angel but encourages young people to make calculated decisions they won't regret. 

"When you get to jail, there's no guns in there. You see the real character of who you really are in prison," he said. "So just remember that you might be a tough guy on the streets but prison is a lot tougher."