Filled with sor­row and ‘hard ques­tions’

New charge raises doubts about po­lice in­ves­ti­ga­tion into miss­ing LGBTQ men

Toronto Star - - NEWS - VIC­TO­RIA GIB­SON STAFF RE­PORTER

Sit­ting in a cof­fee shop at the heart of Toronto’s Gay Vil­lage, a half-hour af­ter Toronto po­lice con­cluded their lat­est press con­fer­ence on the Bruce McArthur case, Shakir Rahim was pained.

“See­ing day in and day out, mem­bers of your com­mu­nity al­legedly killed in such a fash­ion is deeply emo­tional and un­set­tling,” Rahim told the Star shortly af­ter po­lice an­nounced McArthur’s sev­enth mur­der charge for the killing of Ab­dul­basir Faizi.

Faizi was last of three sub­jects of Project Hous­ton, a shut­tered miss­ing-per­sons task force, to be named as a mur­der vic­tim. All three were men of colour. All three po­lice now be­lieve were killed by the same man.

Faizi’s last debit card trans­ac­tion re­port­edly came on Dec. 28, 2010, across the street from a Sec­ond Cup near Church and Welles­ley Sts. Many of its pa­trons say they knew McArthur or his al­leged vic­tims.

Se­lim Esen, an­other al­leged vic­tim, ap­plied for a job there be­fore he went miss­ing.

“It re­ally breaks your heart,” Rahim said of the new charge.

Rahim is a board mem­ber for the Al­liance for South Asian AIDS Pre­ven­tion, which has been ac­tively in­volved with ques­tion­ing what hap­pened dur­ing that early task force and the in­ves­ti­ga­tion at large. A state­ment from the group ques­tioned whether ad­e­quate re­sources and ef­forts were put into the men’s dis­ap­pear­ances, “de­spite the ini­tial pub­lic out­cry, out­reach and de­mand for an in­ves­ti­ga­tion.”

“What did in­ves­ti­ga­tors think about why these men went miss­ing, or what ra­tio­nale there was?” Rahim asked on Wed­nes­day.

Faizi’s life was com­pli­cated: He had a wife and chil­dren who ap­peared to know noth­ing about the time he spent in the vil­lage.

There are many lin­ger­ing ques­tions over how po­lice han­dled the Faizi case, Rahim said.

“There are hard ques­tions that have to be asked, about how you deal with in­di­vid­u­als who have com­plex lives. “And it re­quires a re­ally high de­gree of cul­tural com­pe­tency, out­reach, all of these sorts of things.”

The 519 com­mu­nity cen­tre, a LGBTQ-fo­cused fa­cil­ity one block north, of­fered its “heart­felt con­do­lences” to Faizi’s loved ones in a Face­book post Wed­nes­day.

Deidre Olsen, a queer Toronto-based jour­nal­ist who fre­quents the vil­lage, said Wed­nes­day’s charge has re­vived the pain of a 2016 Toronto po­lice sting op­er­a­tion at Marie Curtis Park in Eto­bi­coke, where un­der­cover of­fi­cers sought out men in­ter­ested in sex­ual ac­tiv­ity, tick­et­ing at least 72.

Olsen said she was jarred that McArthur may have met Faizi there at a park near Moore Ave., where his car was found aban­doned.

“Queer peo­ple are of­ten rel­e­gated to these dark spa­ces,” Olsen said.

VIC­TO­RIA GIB­SON/TORONTO STAR

Shakir Rahim, of Al­liance for South Asian AIDS Pre­ven­tion, ques­tions how Project Hous­ton was han­dled.

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