The Current

Report on police failings comes too late, says friend of man killed by Bruce McArthur

An independent review of the Toronto police force's handling of missing-person cases, including the victims of serial killer Bruce McArthur, has found "systemic discrimination" contributed to police failings.

Police apology 'doesn't repair the damage that's already been done': Nicole Borthwick

Nicole Borthwick knew three men who were murdered by Toronto serial killer Bruce McArthur. (Chris Helgren/Reuters)

Read Story Transcript

A friend of Andrew Kinsman, who was murdered by Toronto serial killer Bruce McArthur, says a police apology isn't adequate after a report outlined "systemic discrimination" in how the investigation was handled.

"I think that the apology that the Toronto police are willing to give isn't enough for these families, it doesn't repair the damage that's already been done," said Nicole Borthwick.

"The report is another layer of healing that they have to go through. And it's not going to end, the grief will be a lifelong kind of grief," she told The Current's Matt Galloway.

Released Tuesday, the independent review by former judge Gloria Epstein looked at several missing person cases and how they were handled by Toronto police. The review was ordered in the summer of 2018, and later expanded to include McArthur's murder of eight men with ties to Toronto's gay village, most of them men of colour.

WATCH | Friends and family describe McCarthur's victims:

Bruce McArthur's victims, described by family and friends

CBC News

2 years ago
3:01
Listen to statements read by the people who mourn Skandaraj Navaratnam, Andrew Kinsman, Selim Esen, Abdulbasir Faizi, Kirushna Kumar Kanagaratnam, Dean Lisowick, Soroush Mahmudi and Majeed Kayhan. 3:01

Their disappearances date back to 2010, but McArthur was not arrested until Jan. 2018. He is currently serving a life sentence for the first-degree murder of all eight men.

The review also looked at the case of 22-year-old Tess Richey, whose body was found in an outdoor stairwell by her mother, and Alloura Wells, a transgender woman found dead in a ravine.

The report found that some police officers had misconceptions or stereotypical ideas about the LGBTQ community, and that there was a lack of communication about the cases with the community, as well as within the police force itself.

Epstein also identified delays and errors in the investigations, and missed "important opportunities to identify him as the killer."

She wrote that her "extensive engagement with community members and organizations confirmed that many people deeply mistrust the Toronto police."

Interim police chief James Ramer said Tuesday that the shortcomings Epstein identified are "inexcusable. He said the police accept and will act on every one of the report's 150 recommendations.

WATCH | Report 'hard to read,' interim chief says:

Interim Toronto police chief says review into missing persons cases ‘difficult to read’ and ‘humbling’

CBC News Toronto

1 month ago
0:51
Interim Police Chief James Ramer said there have been mistakes and missteps in the way Toronto police handled missing persons cases, especially when it came to the city's LGBTQ community. 0:51

Borthwick said she wants to see swift action to address that mistrust, and improve police relationships with marginalized communities.

"The police are there to serve and protect everybody, not just the certain chosen ones," she said.

Borthwick knew three of McArthur's victims, Andrew Kinsman, Dean Lisowick and Selim Esen. She worked with Kinsman at a food bank,and was part of efforts to raise awareness when he went missing.

"We thought that for every poster we put up, there was a face and there was a soul within that picture," she said.

"It meant a lot because it was somebody I knew, and it was somebody that we loved."

'Arrogance or ignorance?'

Haran Vijayanathan, a member of the report's community advisory group, said the report "points out some of the significant deficiencies within the current system."

"It's time for not just the Toronto police services, but I would also argue that all police services in this country take this to heart and really make that change and start building those alliances," said Vijayanathan, whose work focuses on social justice for the HIV/AIDS and LGBTQ communities.

Vijayanathan welcomed the report's recommendations about greater engagement and transparency with communities affected by investigations, particularly given mistrust felt toward the police. He also lauded recommendations for greater civilian involvement in investigations, such as a social worker or someone already familiar with the community.

"There isn't the intimidation of a police uniform," he said.

"It certainly does take away a lot of those barriers, and I think you'd see a lot more engagement."

Reading through the report, Vijayanathan said he asked himself whether the issues were caused by arrogance, ignorance, or a mixture of the two.

"Either one should not be playing a part in a police service organisation," he told Galloway.

WATCH | Gloria Epstein describes what it was like to review the missing persons cases:

‘It has changed who I am’: Former judge talks about how conducting the review into missing persons cases has impacted her

CBC News Toronto

1 month ago
1:52
Former judge Gloria Epstein led an independent group to look into how police dealt with missing persons cases and said that the experience was both “painful and wonderful." 1:52

Lorimer Shenher, a former Vancouver Police Department detective, said that every investigator will have preconceived stereotypes, but it's important not to let those biases become blindspots in a case.

"If you're a cis-het, white man from Mississauga and you come in to investigate crimes in the gay village, you have to put yourself into the lives of these people," Shenher told Galloway.

"If you don't understand the world, you can't possibly investigate it."

Shenher was the lead investigator of Vancouver's missing women investigation, an investigation that dragged on for years before securing the arrest and conviction of serial killer Robert Pickton. 

He said he sees a lot of "horrifying similarities" between the missteps in the investigations into Pickton and McArthur, but applauded Tuesday's report as taking a more "community-centred" approach.

Shenher said change won't be easy, given the "very long standing, systemic history of abuse, quite frankly." 

"I think it still comes down to police leadership and police supervision," he said.

"But I'm confident that in Toronto, the police are not actually going to be able to not implement these recommendations — I think the pressure is going to be too great."


Written by Padraig Moran, with files from CBC News. Produced by Ben Jamieson and Ryan Chatterjee.

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