Tory to meet with LGBT leaders amid criticism of police investigation into Bruce McArthur

Mayor John Tory said Tuesday that he will meet with leaders in Toronto's Gay Village to address the relationship between Toronto's LGBTQ community and police following the arrest of Bruce McArthur, now charged with 5 counts of first-degree murder.

Police have faced tough questions about their response to missing men in Gay Village

Toronto Mayor John Tory said he is open to hearing from the city's LGBT community about their often troubled relationship with police. (John Rieti/CBC)

Mayor John Tory said Tuesday that he will meet with leaders in Toronto's Gay Village to address the relationship between Toronto's LGBT community and police following the arrest of Bruce McArthur, now charged with five counts of first-degree murder.

Tory's pledge to meet comes amid concerns about the police's handling of the McArthur investigation, including that police failed to take sufficient action on a string of disappearances of gay men of colour — three of whom McArthur is now charged with murdering.

Last month, Police Chief Mark Saunders announced a review of how Toronto police handle missing persons investigations spurred by concerns that police were not doing enough to protect members of the Church and Wellesley community.

Concern over cases like Tess Richey, Alloura Wells, Andrew Kinsman and Selim Esen led some in the area to take safety into their own hands, with volunteers banding together to develop a walk-safe program.

"I think there are opportunities for us to learn, grow and develop," said Saunders at the time.

Saunders denied presence of serial killer

During that same news conference, Saunders said there was no evidence of a serial killer in the Gay Village, despite long-percolating rumours that disappearances from the neighbourhood were connected.

"There was a picture that went around social media that had 12 faces on it initially, which brought a lot of attention to the issue," said Greg Downer, a friend of Andrew Kinsman who helped organize searches and meetings to keep public attention focused on the Gay Village disappearances, in August.  

Steven Gleason, who worked as a bartender in the Gay Village in 2013, said rumours about a serial killer that was "targeting gay men" were rampant.

"It was always kind of like an urban legend that people would talk about," he said.

Police have charged landscaper Bruce McArthur, 66, with five counts of first-degree murder and say there are likely more victims. (Facebook/Canadian Press)

Gleason said that since the arrest, talk in the neighbourhood has focused on whether police should have warned the community about McArthur, who they were investigating since at least September.

Western University criminology professor Mike Arntfield told CBC Radio's The Current that his students spotted a pattern of disappearances in Toronto's Gay Village "three years ago."

"I can only hope that that was an investigative strategy," Arntfield said of the police's initial denial that there was a serial killer in the city.

'Are brown men disposable?'

The Alliance for South Asian AIDS Prevention released a bulletin last week condemning the fact that it took the disappearance of Andrew Kinsman — a well-known, well-connected white man — to trigger major public concern.

"Are brown men disposable or any racialized communities disposable when it comes to when they go missing?" the bulletin asked.

Tory said Tuesday that he's already reached out to the Church and Wellesley community about who should have a seat at the meeting.

Police won't be included, he said, in order to "have people feel free to say whatever they want so we can use that information constructively."