Between 2010 and 2017, several brown-skinned men vanished from Toronto’s LGBTQ neighbourhood, The Village. They also shared similarities like their age and the bars they frequented. Journalists and community members spoke out over the years, saying these disappearances were suspicious and wondering whether they were linked.
But it wasn’t until Jan. 18, 2018, nearly eight years after the first disappearance, when police arrested 66-year-old Bruce McArthur on first-degree murder charges. Over the next three months, McArthur would be charged with a total of eight counts of murder.
Six of McArthur’s victims were of South Asian or Middle Eastern descent, and many were immigrants and refugees from countries where same-sex intercourse is considered a criminal offence and is even punishable by death. A ninth man, reportedly with a Middle Eastern background, was saved by the police on the day of McArthur’s arrest.
Why wasn’t the Toronto police able to catch McArthur earlier in their investigation? And how has The Village dealt with the fallout of this case?
Featuring interviews with community members, activists, journalists and the mayor of Toronto, Village of the Missing is a multi-layered exploration of how McArthur was able to commit his horrific acts of violence in the heart of one of Canada’s most progressive cities.
The film explores a deep, 50-year antagonism between The Village and the Toronto police while highlighting the systemic problems of how missing persons cases are handled in a neighbourhood where racism is still a problem.
The documentary also takes us on an emotional journey to Turkey, where we meet a group of LGBT refugees who have fled their home countries in fear for their lives. They’re waiting to come to a place like Toronto, where they hope that they will find people they can trust and where they can finally be open about their sexuality.
But in a city that prides itself on being an open and safe place for marginalized people, questions persist: How is it possible that these men remained missing for so many years, and why didn’t the Toronto community as a whole put more pressure on the police and officials to find them?
Village of the Missing tries to find answers to these questions.