Toronto reflects and starts to heal after its LGBT community survived a serial killer

The Toronto LGBT community will forever be shook by a serial killer that targeted and murdered select gay members.

HomoCulture Koelen Andrews

This article was published on February 13th, 2019

As new, explicitly horrific details emerge throughout the court case, one thing is certain: the Toronto LGBT community will forever be shook by a serial killer that targeted and murdered select gay members of the Toronto queer community. Convicted guilty serial killer Bruce McArthur has just been sentenced to eight life sentences—one for every life he took—without the chance of parole. Now, the Toronto LGBT community is attempting to heal and look for answers to prevent something like this from happening again.

Toronto reflects and starts to heal after its LGBT community survived a serial killer

In some instances, the details of the case against McArthur were at times so gory and terrible, police and news outlets simply wouldn’t report them. McArthur, a landscaper, would lure poor, closeted, immigrants to his home where he would drug, rape, strangle, and dismember their bodies, hiding the body parts in plants and in his yard. Police found victims’ remains buried on his property and digital files of McArthur posing with his corpses. Upon searching his home, police discovered a living, surviving man—who was a similar ethnic and economic match of his other victims—tied to McArthur ’s bed.

Blame has been placed on the Toronto police for their inactions and involvement in McArthur ’s case. McArthur had previously tried to strangle a victim while in police custody in the back of a police van, yet walked free years ago without charges. McArthur ’s murder spree took place from 2010 through 2017, and the community is wondering what took so long for the police to find and apprehend McArthur. It was only through the last victim’s disappearance and security tapes that lead police to McArthur ’s door in the first place.

Toronto reflects and starts to heal after its LGBT community survived a serial killer

Andrew Kinsman—McArthur ’s final victim—along with Selim Esen, Dean Lisowik, Majeed Kayhan, Abdulbasir Faizi, Skandaraj Navaratnam, Kirushna Kumar Kanagaratnam, and Soroush Mahmudi are the names of the eight McArthur victims that the Toronto community is eulogizing, while trying to make sense of it all. In the biggest city of a country that prides itself on its welcoming, friendly, and neighborly-like reputation, Toronto and Canada has been rocked to the core with news of these murders and the trial that followed.

The Canadian gay rights movement began in Toronto’s gay village. A well-known fixture of the queer community in the village, McArthur was known as a regular in many bars and establishments. His seemingly kind and friendly outward disposition to members of the LGBT community, while being a cold-blooded killer behind closed doors, has Toronto residents second guessing everything about their ‘doors unlocked at night with no need to worry’ attitude.  Twice interrogated by the police, McArthur went free and the city and police force were in total denial of the presence of a serial killer. 

Toronto reflects and starts to heal after its LGBT community survived a serial killer

The deaths of these victims in particular lead many Canadians questioning how welcoming and accepting Toronto and Canada actually are. This is not the first time the LGBT community has had run ins with the police. There is a long-standing reputation for outlandish behavior by the police towards the gay community and a growing resentment by Canadians against refugees and immigrants. 

Members of the Toronto LGBT and immigrant communities feel there was little action taken by the police due to the victim’s identities. Were the police just not concerned considering they were queer and immigrants? Other than Kinsman, each was marginalized on the outskirts of Canadian society so that no one would notice they were gone. In what is often considered one of the most gay-friendly cities in the world, locals are asking themselves: “How did this happen in my city?”

Toronto reflects and starts to heal after its LGBT community survived a serial killer

So far, the identity of what could have been McArthur ’s ninth victim has not been released. Many questions remained unanswered.  For the time being, Toronto needs the support of the LGBT community at home and abroad. While this happened in Canada, the truth is, it could happen to anyone, anywhere. Here’s what you can do to help prevent something like this from happening again:

Check in with your friends. If you or a friend is going to a stranger’s house, make sure you let at least one person in your life know. Make sure your friends do the same. 

  • Be mindful of what drugs and alcohol you do and in whose company. 
  • Don’t trust drinks and drugs from strangers. 
  • Avoid going home with absolute strangers. 
  • Be mindful of one another. 
  • You don’t have to be suspicious of everyone, just be observant and careful of what you do and who you do it around. 

Rest in peace Andrew Kinsman, Selim Esen, Dean Lisowik, Majeed Kayhan, Abdulbasir Faizi, Skandaraj Navaratnam, Kirushna Kumar Kanagaratnam, and Soroush Mahmudi. Hopefully, the Toronto queer community is able to heal from this devastating situation.

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