Toronto LGBT leader says police 'ignore, dismiss, diminish' missing gay men

​A Toronto LGBT leader says she feels police ignored and diminished the community’s concerns after Andrew Kinsman and Selim Esen went missing in 2017.

Church-Wellesley community reacts to arrest of Bruce McArthur in deaths of Andrew Kinsman and Selim Esen

Nicki Ward, director of the Church-Wellesley Neighbourhood Association, says her community feels "dismissed" by police. (Amanda Grant/CBC)

​A Toronto LGBT leader says she feels police ignored and diminished the community's concerns after Andrew Kinsman and Selim Esen went missing in 2017.

"This has been on our radar for not just months, but years," Nicki Ward, director of the Church-Wellesley Neighbourhood Association, told CBC Radio's Metro Morning on Friday.

"We know who has gone missing, who should be there and isn't there. The fact that the police ignore that is more than problematic."

On Thursday, police arrested Bruce McArthur on two counts of first-degree murder in the deaths of both men, who vanished in Ward's neighbourhood. 

Andrew Kinsman, left, and Selim Esen, right, have both gone missing in recent months, prompting community concern and the allocation of dedicated police resources. (Toronto Police Service)

Ward says multiple men have been reported missing since 2010, and despite outcry from the LGBT community, police dismissed the idea that they could be linked.

"Ignore, dismiss, diminish; these are all words that accurately describe the way police have dealt with missing persons in our neighbourhood," Ward said.

For months now, members of the LGBT community have speculated that the missing persons reports could be linked, and could involve targeted killings.

Toronto police said they had no proof of a serial killer in December. On Thursday, when announcing McArthur's arrest, Chief Mark Saunders stood by those comments, saying they were accurate at the time.

"They also said that social media and dating applications had no part to play in this and that's clearly, evidently not true," said Ward.

"So it begs the question: if there was evidence, why didn't they share it with the public so the public could take some steps to ensure their own safety?"

Later Friday morning, a spokesperson for Toronto police said there would be no response from the service to Ward's comments, saying that she had expressed them to officers during a meeting with police back in December. 

"Her concerns were discussed at that time and we appreciate her feedback," Toronto police spokesperson Meaghan Gray said in an email.

A month after saying there was no evidence to suggest a serial killer was behind the disappearances in the Church-Wellesley Village, police have now charged a man with first-degree murder in connection with two of the people who have gone missing. Matt Galloway talks to Nicki Ward about reaction to the charges, and find out what it means for the community. 9:14

'I don't feel validated'

Ward says she's glad someone has been arrested, but she's distraught over how the cases have been handled.

"I don't feel validated. There is no virtue in saying 'Yes, we were right, there was a serial killer' … there's no joy in that expression,'" she said.

"There needs to be better triaging involved and frankly taking the community far more seriously when it raises these legitimate concerns."

Ward says she felt safe in the village even before McArthur was arrested, but it's not thanks to police.

"We feel very safe in our community, we're resilient, we watch out for each other," Ward said. "I feel very safe where I live, but that's because of my community. I would like to feel safer because of our police services, as well."

Metro Morning