Toronto will spend up to $3-million on an independent review into the police service’s handling of missing persons cases.
The highly anticipated review will address complaints raised by the LGBTQ community around how the service investigated reports of missing gay men who are now believed to have been victims of alleged serial killer Bruce McArthur.
“This is a huge step forward on a very long journey,” Mayor John Tory said Thursday, after the $3-million price tag was approved by the Toronto Police Services Board.
The review – which will look at the service’s reporting and investigating processes in missing person cases, as well as the relationships between police and the LGBTQ community – is expected to take 15 months.
A working group was tasked with outlining the terms of reference for the review, which cannot include information or discussion of the continuing investigation and court proceedings in the McArthur case.
When they presented that framework on Thursday, the group acknowledged their “first choice” would have been a full public inquiry.
But until the McArthur case concludes – at which point Mr. Tory has agreed a public inquiry should be called – Shakir Rahim, a member of the working group, considers the review a “necessary compromise.”
Relationships between police and Toronto’s LGBTQ community are “strained,” Mr. Rahim said Thursday.
“My objective is that we get it right. At the end of the day, that’s what I want – is to get it right,” Chief Mark Saunders said Thursday.
After men started disappearing in the fall of 2010, the gay community complained that fears that a serial killer was in their midst were not being taken seriously.
After Mr. McArthur’s arrest in January, it came to light that he had twice been earlier questioned by police – including for allegations that he tried to strangle someone with whom he had a sexual encounter.
Mr. McArthur is facing eight charges of first-degree murder.
The review will look not only at how police handle missing persons reports and the biases that could affect those investigations, but also at the barriers that could lead to someone not being reported missing in the first place.
Notably, the review will include “a very robust community consultation process.”
Although the group had requested a budget of $2.5-million, Mr. Tory put forward a motion to increase that amount to $3-million, to allow for that community consultation and engagement.
A request will be made to the city for the funds, and the mayor’s spokesperson Don Peat said Mr. Tory will ensure it gets approved.
This review, Mr. Tory said, is about “obtaining answers, rebuilding trust, and … saving lives.”
The review will look at the missing person investigations of Skandaraj Navaratnam, Abdulbasir Faizi, Majeed Kayhan, Selim Esen and Andrew Kinsman – all now believed to be alleged victims of Mr. McArthur.
The review will also look at the investigations into missing persons Alloura Wells and Tess Richey.
Two TPS officers are facing disciplinary charges for their failure to properly search for Tess Richey, who was reported missing last November after a night out in the gay village. Ms. Richey’s body was found three days later by her mother, who had travelled from North Bay.
The review will additionally examine barriers that prevented Dean Lisowick and Kirushna Kumar Kanagaratnam – also alleged victims of Mr. McArthur – from being reported missing.