Filled with sorrow and ‘hard questions’
New charge raises doubts about police investigation into missing LGBTQ men
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.
Shakir Rahim, of Alliance for South Asian AIDS Prevention, questions how Project Houston was handled.