This morning, three years after the arrest of Bruce McArthur, Justice Gloria Epstein released her independent review finding into how Toronto Police Service conduct missing persons investigations.
I want to start by offering my love and support to the families of Selim Esen, Abdulbasir Faiz, Kirushnakumar Kanagaratnam, Majeed Kayhan, Andrew Kinsman, Dean Lisowick, Soroush Mahmudi, Skandaraj (Skanda) Navaratnam, Alloura Wells, and Tess Richey. This review will not bring back their loved ones, but hopefully we can all learn from this tragedy, and protect other families.
The Independent Civilian Review Into Missing Person Investigations found that the Toronto Police failed to protect the community despite years of public concern and fears that a serial killer was stalking Toronto’s Gay Village. This report comes at a critical moment of police reform in the City of Toronto. Disturbing and unacceptable exhibits of police misconduct and systemic anti-Black racism have captured global attention.
It is no secret that Toronto’s LGBTQ2S+ community has also had a contentious and fractured relationship with the Toronto Police. In addition to being victims of heavy-handed enforcement through bathhouse raids, and carding, concerns about how Toronto Police handled missing person reports and community safety continue to persist.
I want the outcome of this review to improve the working relationships between the police and the communities they serve. I hope that the Toronto Police Services Board seriously considers and adopts Justice Epstein’s recommendations. Central to Justice Epstein’s recommendation is the need to develop new best practices based on community feedback and international practices in relation to missing person investigations, bias-free policing, and positive working relationships with marginalized communities.
We must also continue the hard work of reallocating Toronto’s police budget toward community supports. We recognize that many of the impediments to community safety will not be solved by the police. Too many people are unable to access the life-saving resources they need to thrive, while growing housing affordability, mental health, and addiction crises are having massive health and safety impacts.
Too often, when called for help Toronto Police officers indicate that they do not have enough resources, despite a yearly budget of over $1 Billion. Properly investing in preventative community safety would free up much-needed time and attention for the actual services only the police can provide - like investigating missing people and serial killers.
I would like to thank Justice Epstein and all those involved for their thorough investigation and community conversation. There is no perfect outcome. Beloved members of our community have died and will not return to us. I hope that we take this opportunity to learn and do better. We must forge new partnerships as recommended by Justice Epstein to ensure that those who we have lost will not be in vain.
It is my intention to work constructively with City Council, the Toronto Police Service Board, and the community to ensure that Justice Epstein’s 151 recommendations are fully adopted and implemented. It is my hope that this historic report is a new catalyst to further improve policing practices and community relations in Toronto.