TORONTO – The former judge leading a review of the Toronto police’s missing-persons investigations says she welcomes the inclusion of the crimes of serial killer Bruce McArthur in her probe.
Gloria Epstein, a former justice of the Ontario Court of Appeal, says in a statement today that expanded terms of reference approved unanimously by the Toronto Police Services Board will give her work a wider perspective.
When the review was ordered last summer it did not include McArthur’s crimes to in order to preserve his right to a fair trial.
In January, she called on the city’s police services board to expand her mandate to include the McArthur case in light of his unexpected guilty plea.
McArthur pleaded guilty to eight counts of first-degree murder and all his victims had ties to Toronto’s gay village.
Following McArthur’s arrest early last year, the board approved the independent probe amid significant concern in Toronto’s LGBTQ community about how police had looked into missing-person reports.
Those concerns included fears that the handling of such investigations was being tainted by “implicit or explicit, specific and systemic bias.”
The review is focusing on policies and procedures related to missing-persons investigations as well as on how Toronto police officers investigated the disappearances of members of the community who were later found to have been killed.
Epstein says the change in scope will allow her to ask more questions and look directly at the facts surrounding the McArthur investigation and its victims.
“Such a change will also assist in my efforts to address the fundamental issue of whether systemic bias or discrimination played a role in the investigation of missing persons and whether the current policies and procedures adequately protect against such bias or discrimination,” she said.
Epstein says she appreciates the “deep sense of concern and anxiety” felt by members of the LGBTQ community and will attempt to provide answers that help foster a climate that changes their relationship with Toronto police.
“I look forward to meeting with members of the community in a variety of ways to learn about their perspectives and experiences,” she says.