Toronto’s LGBTQ community is calling on Ontario’s attorney general to launch a public inquiry into how police handle missing persons cases and murder investigations following the arrest of alleged serial killer Bruce McArthur.
McArthur has been charged with six counts of first-degree murder in connection with the deaths of missing men from the city’s gay community.
“Our community is grieving. Our community is angry,” lawyer Douglas Elliot told reporters at a press conference in Toronto Thursday morning.
“As recently as last December, we were being told by Chief [Mark] Saunders that our long-standing concerns about a serial killer preying on our community were not based on any evidence. He was wrong. He had a legal duty to warn us and instead he reassured us.”
Ontario’s attorney general said earlier this month the government is reviewing a call from Toronto’s mayor for a public inquiry into the police handling of missing persons cases.
Yasir Naqvi said the government will maintain an open dialogue with the city on next steps following the conclusion of any criminal proceedings.
But LGBTQ advocates say a public inquiry should be brought forward immediately.
“We will all suffer immensely waiting for answers. The inquiry is not going to stop or even impede the criminal investigation,” Elliot said.
“No one is asking for that investigation to be put on hold. An accused person has been identified and he is not going to be released from custody just because an inquiry is launched.”
The call for a public inquiry follows revelations that McArthur was interviewed by police for an alleged sexual assault during a date that reportedly went wrong in 2016.
McArthur, a 66-year-old self-employed landscaper, was interviewed before he was released. He was not charged.
The incident is now the subject of a professional standards unit investigation after Det. Sgt. Hank Idsinga, the officer leading the investigation into McArthur, reported it to the unit.
The date happened the year before the disappearances of Selim Esen and Andrew Kinsman.
VIDEO: Bruce McArthur arrested in 2016 for alleged choking incident, police source said
McArthur was arrested and charged with the first-degree murder of Esen and Kinsman on Jan. 18, following a months-long probe into missing persons cases. He was first considered a suspect in November 2017 during the investigation of the two missing men, Idsinga told Global News.
On Jan. 29, police said McArthur was charged with three more counts of first-degree murder in connection with the deaths of Majeed Kayhan, Dean Lisowick and Soroush Mahmudi.
On Feb. 23, McArthur was charged with a sixth count of first-degree murder in the death of Skandaraj Navaratnam.
LGBTQ community members said Project Houston, the police investigation into the disappearance of three men between 2012 and 2014, should not have been closed.
In addition to an independent inquiry, the group said in a media release that it wants an interim anonymous reporting channel to be created for members of the community to report crimes without having to directly speak to police, as they say some are not comfortable coming forward.
There is also a call for Toronto police to implement a satellite office in the Gay Village to foster a more transparent relationship between officers and the LGBTQ community.
The Toronto Police Services Board is also meeting Thursday afternoon to discuss an independent external review of police practices related to missing persons investigations.
Mayor John Tory said in a letter addressed to the board on March 15 that he will be moving a motion to support such a review with the support of Chief Saunders.
The motion calls for a working group to be created to look into an independent external review as well as reporting back costs for such a process and timelines.
The letter also stated that a public inquiry should not jeopardize the ongoing investigations and judicial proceedings.
“I share the Mayor’s view concerning the need for an independent and external review,” Saunders said in a letter to the board.
“Such a review will help identify any gaps that exist in policies, procedures and practices including issues of systemic bias.”
VIDEO: Internal Toronto police probe related to Bruce McArthur investigation
-With a file from Catherine McDonald
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