Transcript: Justin Ling: Reporting on Toronto's Serial Killer | Oct 28, 2020

Steve sits in the studio. He's slim, clean-shaven, in his fifties, with short curly brown hair. He's wearing a gray suit, blue shirt, and striped blue tie.

A caption on screen reads "Reporting on Toronto's serial killer. @spaikin, @theagenda."

Steve says EIGHT MEN, OVER SEVEN YEARS, STARTING IN 2010, DISAPPEARED WITHOUT A TRACE FROM TORONTO'S GAY VILLAGE. LIVES TAKEN, IT TURNS OUT, BY A PREDATOR OPERATING IN THE MIDST OF A VIBRANT COMMUNITY WHERE FEARS MOUNTED EVEN AS POLICE CAME UP SHORT. INVESTIGATIVE JOURNALIST JUSTIN LING COVERED THIS STORY AS IT WAS UNFOLDING. BUT HIS NEW BOOK GOES FURTHER, PROBING WHAT MADE SUCH A SHOCKING LOSS OF LIFE POSSIBLE. IT'S CALLED, "MISSING FROM THE VILLAGE: THE STORY OF SERIAL KILLER BRUCE McARTHUR, THE SEARCH FOR JUSTICE, AND THE SYSTEM THAT FAILED TORONTO'S QUEER COMMUNITY." AND JUSTIN LING JOINS US NOW FROM MONTREAL, QUEBEC. FOR HIS FIRST TIME ON "THE AGENDA."

Justin is in his late thirties, with short brown hair and a full beard. He's wearing a black sweater.
A picture of his book appears briefly on screen. The cover is white, with black lettering.

Steve continues LONG OVERDUE BUT HAPPY TO SEE YOU ON THE OTHER END OF THAT TELEVISION SCREEN, JUSTIN. HOW ARE YOU DOING?

Justin says I'M DOING AS WELL AS COULD BE EXPECTED GIVEN THE CIRCUMSTANCES, STEVE. THANKS FOR HAVING ME ON.

Steve says THAT IS ACTUALLY THE RIGHT ANSWER TO THAT QUESTION. VERY GOOD. I GUESS I WANT TO START, BEFORE WE ACTUALLY TELL THE STORY, I WANT TO KNOW WHAT DREW YOU PARTICULARLY TO THIS STORY.

The caption changes to "Justin Ling. Author, 'Missing from the village.'"
Then, it changes again to "Men in the margins."

Justin says YEAH. I MEAN, I ACTUALLY RECOUNT THE MOMENT WHERE I DECIDED TO START REPORTING ON THIS STORY IN THE BOOK AND I REMEMBER IT ACTUALLY VERY, VERY VIVIDLY. IT WAS A MOMENT ACTUALLY SITTING IN PARLIAMENT IN MY FORMER OFFICE ON THE THIRD FLOOR OF CENTRE BLOCK, AND IN THE MIDDLE OF AN ELECTION CAMPAIGN AND I WAS JUST STRUCK BY THIS IMAGE OF A HEADLINE THAT I HAD SEEN A COUPLE OF YEARS EARLIER ABOUT MEN WHO HAD STARTED GOING... WHO STARTED GOING MISSING IN THE CHURCH AND WELLESLEY VILLAGE IN TORONTO, AND I REMEMBER AT THE TIME IN 2013 THINKING, SOMETHING IS REALLY WRONG HERE. YOU KNOW, IT'S NOT EVERY DAY THAT, YOU KNOW, THREE MEN WHO LOOK REALLY SIMILAR, ALL THREE WERE BROWN SKINNED, IMMIGRANTS, ALL THREE OF THEM WERE QUEER, ALL THREE OF THEM WENT TO THE SAME BARS, IT'S NOT EVERY DAY WITH PEOPLE WITH THAT MANY SIMILARITIES GO MISSING FROM A SMALL GEOGRAPHIC AREA OVER A SMALL TIME FRAME, AND I REMEMBER THINKING BACK THEN, GOD, I HOPE THEY CATCH THE GUY. AND IN 2015, GOING BACK AND LOOKING THROUGH ALL THOSE HEADLINES AGAIN, THERE HAD BEEN NO UPDATE. THERE WAS NO CONCLUSION. THERE WAS NO PRESS CONFERENCE BY POLICE A YEAR LATER OR TWO YEARS LATER. THERE WAS NO FOLLOW-UP BY THE TORONTO STAR OR THE GLOBE AND MAIL. THERE WAS NOTHING. TWO YEARS OF ABSOLUTE RADIO SILENCE. I WOULD LEARN LATER THAT THE INVESTIGATION HAD BEEN SHUT DOWN IN 2014 AND THAT NOBODY WAS LOOKING INTO THIS. THIS HAD BEEN COMPLETELY JUST LEFT TO LIE FALLOW IN A FILING CABINET SOMEWHERE. IT WAS IN THAT MOMENT THAT I THOUGHT SOMEONE NEEDS TO GO BACK AND REVISIT THIS. SOMETHING IS WRONG HERE. AND IF SOMEONE IS RESPONSIBLE FOR THOSE DISAPPEARANCES, THEY COULD DO IT AGAIN. THEY MIGHT STILL BE DOING IT. THEY MIGHT STILL BE POTENTIALLY ABDUCTING OR KILLING PEOPLE IN THE GAY VILLAGE AND, YOU KNOW, SOMEBODY NEEDS TO RING THE ALARM BELL ON THAT.

Steve says ALL JOURNALISTS, ALL REPORTERS, THEY WANT TO TELL IMPORTANT STORIES AND THIS IS CLEARLY AN IMPORTANT STORY. DID YOU FEEL, THOUGH, THAT AS A GAY MAN, YOU HAD EITHER PARTICULAR INSIGHT OR ENTRE INTO THIS STORY THAT OTHERS MAY NOT HAVE?

The caption changes to "Justin Ling. Investigative Journalist."

Justin says I THINK TO SOME DEGREE YES. BUT I THINK THE BIGGEST PART WAS JUST KNOWING THAT IT'S UNUSUAL FOR PEOPLE TO DISAPPEAR FROM THE VILLAGE IN THAT WAY. I CAN TELL YOU THAT PART OF THE ASSUMPTION FROM INVESTIGATING OFFICERS AND FROM FOLKS AT THE TORONTO POLICE SERVICE WAS THAT GAY MEN OR QUEER MEN OR CLOSETED MEN SOMETIMES JUST TAKE OFF. IT REALLY WAS THIS ASSUMPTION THAT MAYBE BECAUSE THEY WERE IMMIGRANTS OR REFUGEES, MAYBE BECAUSE THEY WERE QUEER OR IN THE CLOSET, THAT MAYBE THEY'D HEAD BACK... I'LL USE REALLY AGGRESSIVE SCARE QUOTES HERE, GO BACK HOME OR HEAD BACK HOME, OR MAYBE THEY WOULD JUST GET IN THE CAR OR HOP ON A BUS AND JUST GO TO SOME OTHER LIFE SOMEWHERE. AND IT JUST SEEMED TO BE THIS INNATE BELIEF THAT THAT'S JUST WHAT SOME QUEER PEOPLE DO. AS A QUEER PERSON, AS SOMEONE WHO SPENT A LOT OF TIME IN THE VILLAGE IN TORONTO AND MONTREAL AND ELSEWHERE, I CAN TELL YOU THAT DOESN'T HAPPEN. HOME IS THE VILLAGE. THAT'S WHAT DREW THESE MEN TO CHURCH AND WELLESLEY, WAS A SENSE OF COMMUNITY, WAS A SENSE OF COLLECTIVE PROTECTION, WAS A SENSE OF COLLECTIVE BELONGING. AND THE IDEA THAT THEY WOULD JUST FLEE, IT STRUCK ME AS SO ABSURD. SO MAYBE THAT IS, YOU KNOW, MY ENTRY AS A QUEER PERSON KNOWING HOW BIZARRE IT WOULD BE FOR SOMEONE TO FLEE THAT SENSE OF SAFETY. BUT IN MANY RESPECTS, I THINK WHAT I BROUGHT TO THIS WAS JUST, YOU KNOW, MY JOURNALISM EXPERIENCE, RIGHT? IT SHOULDN'T TAKE A QUEER PERSON TO LOOK AT THAT STORY AND SAY, SOMETHING IS REALLY WRONG HERE. YOU KNOW, THERE WAS NO INNATE KNOWLEDGE I HAD AS A GAY MAN THAT TOLD ME THERE WAS SOMETHING PARTICULARLY OFF HERE. IT WAS JUST KNOWING THAT WHEN YOU DON'T PROPERLY INVESTIGATE OUTSTANDING MISSING PERSONS CASES, ESPECIALLY ONES THAT LOOK SO SIMILAR, YOU END UP LETTING SERIAL KILLERS GO UNDETECTED. WE LEARNED THAT IN THE DOWNTOWN EAST SIDE OF VANCOUVER. THAT IS THE SORT OF EXPERIENCE THAT I BROUGHT INTO THIS STORY. I THINK BEING A QUEER PERSON CERTAINLY HELPED. I DON'T THINK IT DEFINED MY COVERAGE OF IT, NO.

Steve says LET ME PICK UP ON THAT ANGLE OF A SERIAL KILLER. IT'S ALMOST FOUR YEARS AGO WHEN YOU WERE WORKING AT VICE MAGAZINE THAT YOU LOOKED AT THE FACTS AROUND THIS STORY AND SAID, "THERE'S A SERIAL KILLER AT WORK HERE," AND THE POLICE WERE NOT ANYWHERE CLOSE TO USING THAT WORD YET. WHAT WERE YOU SEEING THAT THEY CLEARLY WERE NOT?

The caption changes to "Justin Ling, @Justin_Ling."
Then, it changes again to "Fear and grief in the Village."

Justin says WELL, I'LL GO BACK TO THE PICKTON EXAMPLE. WHAT THE INVESTIGATION SAID WAS WHEN YOU HAVE FOLKS DISAPPEARING, UNUSUALLY AND WITH NO TRACE, WHO BEAR CERTAIN CHARACTERISTICS, EITHER INDIGENOUS STATUS, SEXUALITY, PROFESSION, INVOLVEMENT IN THE SEX TRADE, WHEN YOU SEE PEOPLE DISAPPEAR ONE AFTER THE OTHER WITH NO EXPLANATION, IT TENDS TO POINT TO THE IDEA THAT SOMEONE IS TARGETING THEM. PEOPLE GENERALLY IN THIS COUNTRY DO NOT DISAPPEAR WITHOUT A TRACE. IT'S ACTUALLY RELATIVELY UNCOMMON THAT YOU HAVE LONG-TERM MISSING PERSONS CASES WITH NO INDICATION WHATSOEVER OF WHAT HAPPENED. IT IS RELATIVELY RARE. SO TO HAVE IN TORONTO THESE THREE CASES OF THREE MEN, ALL OF WHOM WERE SOUTH ASIAN OR MIDDLE EASTERN, ALL OF WHOM WERE IN THEIR 40s OR 50s, ALL OF THEM WHO WERE GAY OR OTHERWISE QUEER, ALL OF WHOM WENT TO THE SAME BARS, USED THE SAME DATING APPS, KNEW THE SAME PEOPLE, TO HAVE THOSE SIMILARITIES YOU'D HAVE TO COME UP WITH SUCH AN ELABORATE SET OF COINCIDENCES TO EXPLAIN HOW EACH ONE OF THEM COULD GO MISSING INDEPENDENT OF EACH OTHER AND NOT HAVE IT CONNECTED. MY ARGUMENT WAS THE MOST LIKELY EXPLANATION AS, YOU KNOW, ALMOST HORRIFYING AS IT IS, THE MOST LIKELY EXPLANATION IS A SERIAL KILLER. UNFORTUNATELY I WAS RIGHT. BUT IT SHOULDN'T TAKE, YOU KNOW, SOMEONE FROM THE OUTSIDE COMING AND POINTING THAT OUT. THIS IS WHAT WE LEARNED FROM NUMEROUS EXAMPLES, FROM VANCOUVER AND FROM ELSEWHERE THROUGHOUT NORTH AMERICA AND EUROPE, IS THAT WHEN YOU HAVE PEOPLE WHO DO DISAPPEAR WITH NO TRACE WHATSOEVER, WITH ALL THESE SIMILARITIES, IT DOES TEND TO POINT TO THE IDEA THAT SOMEONE IS TARGETING THEM.

The caption changes to "Watch us anytime: tvo.org, Twitter: @theagenda, Facebook Live, YouTube."

Steve says WELL, THAT DOES RAISE QUESTIONS ABOUT, YOU KNOW, THE DECADES' LONG ROCKY RELATIONSHIP BETWEEN THE TORONTO POLICE SERVICE AND THE GAY COMMUNITY. WE CAN GO BACK 40 YEARS TO THE BATHHOUSE RAIDS AND CERTAINLY NUMEROUS EXAMPLES BEYOND THAT. DO YOU THINK THAT THAT ROCKY RELATIONSHIP HAD SOMETHING TO DO WITH THEM NOT SEEING WHAT YOU WERE SEEING?

The caption changes to "Cops versus LGBTQ."

Justin says ABSOLUTELY. AND I THINK SOME PEOPLE HAVE CHARACTERIZED THAT AS JUST FLATLY SAYING THAT THE POLICE ARE HOMOPHOBIC AND THAT'S WHAT HOBBLED INVESTIGATORS. I DON'T THINK THAT'S FAIR. I DON'T THINK THAT'S QUITE ACCURATE. I THINK IT'S A MUCH MORE COMPLEX PICTURE THAN THAT. I MEAN, YOU'RE TALKING ABOUT A COMMUNITY AND AN ARM OF THE GOVERNMENT THAT HAVE BEEN AT ODDS FOR DECADES. THE TORONTO POLICE SERVICE, LIKE MANY OTHER POLICE SERVICES ACROSS THE COUNTRY AND ACROSS THE WORLD, HAD CONSISTENTLY USED LAW ENFORCEMENT AS A TOOL TO TARGET, HARASS, SURVEIL, ARREST, AND CRIMINALIZE THE QUEER COMMUNITY, LIKE YOU SAID, GOING BACK 40, 50 YEARS. THAT WAS USED TO RAID BATHHOUSES, TO ARREST FOLKS IN THEIR OWN HOME. IN SOME CASES THERE ARE STORIES OF OFFICERS PICKING UP QUEER PEOPLE FROM THE GAY VILLAGE, DRIVING THEM DOWN TO THE PORT LANDS, ROUGHING THEM UP, STEALING THEIR SHOES, AND FORCING THEM TO WALK HOME. YOU KNOW, THESE ARE THE SORT OF EXPERIENCES A LOT OF QUEER PEOPLE HAD WITH THE POLICE, YOU KNOW, RIGHT FROM THE '60s, '70s, UP UNTIL THE 2000s IN MANY RESPECTS. SO A LOT OF THAT CAME ALONG INTO THIS INVESTIGATION. NOW, I TRULY BELIEVE THE TORONTO POLICE INVESTIGATORS AND DETECTIVES WHO WORKED THIS CASE GENUINELY WANTED TO COOPERATE WITH THE FOLKS IN THE VILLAGE, GENUINELY WANTED TO SOLVE THESE CASES. BUT WHAT YOU HAVE IS A FUNDAMENTAL MISTRUST, A LONGSTANDING AND DEEP-SEEDED MISAPPREHENSION ABOUT THE MISSION OF THE TORONTO POLICE SERVICE, AND AN UNWILLINGNESS I THINK TO BE MAYBE AS COOPERATIVE AS THEY COULD HAVE BEEN. THAT BEING SAID, A LOT OF FOLKS IN THE VILLAGE WENT INTO THE POLICE STATION, WENT INTO THESE DETACHMENTS, WENT INTO INTERVIEWS WITH POLICE AND SPILLED THEIR GUTS OUT. OFFERED EVERYTHING THEY KNEW THAT COULD HAVE BEEN HELPFUL TO THIS INVESTIGATION. THEY WENT ABOVE AND BEYOND IN TERMS OF REVEALING DETAILS ABOUT THEIR OWN SEX LIFE, DETAILS ABOUT THEIR OWN PERSONAL RELATIONSHIPS, AND ULTIMATELY SOME OF THAT INFORMATION POINTED TO BRUCE McARTHUR, THE MAN RESPONSIBLE FOR ALL OF THIS. AND POLICE UNFORTUNATELY WEREN'T ABLE TO, YOU KNOW, PUT ALL OF THOSE DOTS TOGETHER AND ULTIMATELY MAKE THE ARREST WHEN THEY PROBABLY COULD OR SHOULD HAVE. SO THERE'S A LOT OF SOCIOLOGICAL SORT OF COMMUNITY MISTRUST THAT GOES INTO THIS FAILURE, ESSENTIALLY.

Steve says FOR SURE. LET'S PLAY A CLIP RIGHT NOW. I WANT TO GO BACK TO JUST A LITTLE OVER THREE YEARS AGO, MARK SAUNDERS WAS THE THEN CHIEF OF THE TORONTO POLICE SERVICE. THE ISSUE OF A SERIAL KILLER CAME UP, AND HERE'S WHAT HE HAD TO SAY. SHELDON, THE CLIP, PLEASE.

A clip plays on screen with the caption "December 8, 2017."
In the clip, Chief Saunders gives a press conference. He's in his forties, bald, with a thin mustache and glasses.

A male reporter says I KNOW YOU OBVIOUSLY DON'T WANT TO CREATE PUBLIC PANIC. BUT IS THERE ANY REASON FOR YOU TO SAY DEFINITIVELY THAT THERE IS NOT A SERIAL KILLER THAT IS IN THAT AREA?

Chief Saunders says WE FOLLOW THE EVIDENCE, TRAVIS, AND THE EVIDENCE IS TELLING US THAT THAT'S NOT THE CASE RIGHT NOW. SO IF THE EVIDENCE CHANGES, IF THE EVIDENCE CHANGES, THAT'S ANOTHER DAY. BUT THE EVIDENCE TODAY TELLS US THAT THERE IS NOT A SERIAL KILLER BASED ON THE EVIDENCE THAT'S INVOLVED.

The clip ends.

Steve says I'D LIKE TO KNOW WHAT WENT THROUGH YOUR HEAD WHEN YOU HEARD THE CHIEF SAY THAT.

The caption changes to "Subscribe to The Agenda Podcast: tvo.org/theagenda."

Justin says IT WAS JARRING, I THINK, AT THE TIME. SO AT THAT POINT WE HAD HAD THE THREE DISAPPEARANCES BETWEEN 2010 AND 2012, AND WE HAD HAD TWO MORE DISAPPEARANCES IN 2017. AGAIN, FIVE MEN, ALL WITH TIES TO THE VILLAGE, YOU KNOW, ALL WHO FIT A PRETTY NEAT PROFILE, AND THE POLICE REPEATEDLY INSIST INSISTED THAT IT WAS PANIC OR PARANOIA THAT EXPLAINED PEOPLE'S CALLS FOR THIS TO BE TREATED AS A SERIAL KILLER INVESTIGATION. NOW, I KNOW A LOT OF PEOPLE WILL SAY, MAYBE THE CHIEF KNEW MORE THAN HE WAS LETTING ON, HE DIDN'T WANT TO TIP OFF BRUCE McARTHUR. BUT ACTUALLY IN INVESTIGATING THIS BOOK, I LEARNED THAT POLICE GENUINELY DID NOT BELIEVE THEY HAD A SERIAL KILLER RIGHT UP TO THE DAYS BEFORE THE ARREST IN EARLY JANUARY 2018. POLICE REALLY WERE OF THE OPINION THAT BRUCE McARTHUR WAS ONLY RESPONSIBLE FOR A SINGLE HOMICIDE. SO IT WAS REALLY... IN THE REPORTING OF THIS BOOK, IT WAS STARK TO ME, THE FACT THAT POLICE REFUSED TO ACCEPT THE POSSIBILITY OR THE LIKELIHOOD OF A SERIAL KILLER RIGHT UP UNTIL THE FINAL DAYS WHERE THEY FINALLY HAD THAT SMOKING GUN EVIDENCE THAT CONFIRMED WHAT I THINK A LOT OF PEOPLE IN THE VILLAGE HAD BEEN SAYING FOR YEARS, WHICH IS, YOU KNOW, PEOPLE DON'T DISAPPEAR IN THIS WAY. THESE CASES WERE CONNECTED. AND UNFORTUNATELY THEY WERE RIGHT.

Steve says I WANT TO ASK YOU ABOUT THE RELATIONSHIP BETWEEN THE POLICE AND THE MEDIA, BECAUSE IT IS A... IT IS, ON THE OTHER HAND, OCCASIONALLY CONFRONTATIONAL, BUT IT IS ON THE OTHER HAND SYMBIOTIC. THE MEDIA NEED THE POLICE AND THE POLICE NEED THE MEDIA TO GET THE WORD OUT AND TO GARNER PUBLIC ATTENTION TO HELP THEM PERHAPS SEE EVIDENCE, SEE WITNESSES AND SO ON AND SO FORTH. HOW DID YOU NEGOTIATE THAT OCCASIONAL PUSH-PULL OF THAT RELATIONSHIP?

Justin says IT'S COMPLICATED, TO SAY THE LEAST. I MEAN, IT'S FAIR TO SAY THAT THE TORONTO POLICE SERVICE IS NOT ALWAYS RECEPTIVE TO CRITICAL REPORTING. I REPORTED OUT THIS STORY FOR VICE AS WELL AS MACLEANS, ULTIMATELY THE GLOBE AND MAIL AND THE CBC AND OF COURSE WORKING ON THIS BOOK. AND IT WAS TOUGH SOMETIMES, YOU KNOW, TO GET REAL CALLBACKS OR REAL CONFIRMATION OF THINGS WE WERE REPORTING, AND OTHER TIMES, YOU KNOW, I CAN TELL YOU THAT MANY OF THE OFFICERS INVOLVED IN THIS CASE ARE FAR MORE MEDIA-FRIENDLY THAN MANY OTHER OFFICERS I'VE DEALT WITH AT THE TORONTO POLICE SERVICE. THE DETECTIVE SERGEANT WHO WAS THE HEAD OF THIS INVESTIGATION WAS MORE WILLING THAN I THINK I'VE EVER SEEN AN OFFICER, ACTIVE DUTY OFFICER IN CANADA TO CALL UP REPORTERS AND TO HAND OVER INFORMATION AND TO BE ACCESSIBLE TO TOUGH QUESTIONS, AND I REALLY APPRECIATED THAT. BUT I THINK AT THE CHIEF'S LEVEL, THERE WAS AN EFFORT TO CONTROL INFORMATION, THERE WAS AN EFFORT TO, IN MANY WAYS, GAS-LIGHT BOTH THE MEDIA AND THE COMMUNITY ABOUT LEGITIMATE FEARS AND LEGITIMATE QUESTIONS. I MEAN, AT ONE POINT YOU HEARD CHIEF SAUNDERS SUGGEST THAT IT WAS THE COMMUNITY'S FAULT FOR NOT COMING FORWARD WITH CRITICAL INFORMATION. HE DID THAT IN AN INTERVIEW WITH THE GLOBE AND MAIL. AND WHEN THE GLOBE AND MAIL PUBLISHED THOSE COMMENTS, HE TRIED TO ALLEGE THE GLOBE WAS FABRICATING OR TAKING HIS COMMENTS OUT OF CONTEXT, WHICH I THINK WAS ABSOLUTELY UNACCEPTABLE. WHAT'S EVEN MORE GALLING FOR ME IS THAT THE CHIEF KNEW WHEN HE MADE THOSE COMMENTS THAT INVESTIGATORS ACTUALLY HAD GOTTEN TIPS FROM THE COMMUNITY ABOUT BRUCE McARTHUR AND IN FACT THEY HAD EVEN INTERVIEWED HIM IN 2013. SO IT'S FRUSTRATING TO WATCH THE POLICE SERVICE PROCLAIM THAT IT WANTS TO BE ACCESSIBLE AND ACCOUNTABLE TO THE MEDIA AND TO THE PUBLIC WHEN IN SOME RESPECTS IT TRIES TO OBFUSCATE AND CONTROL INFORMATION IN THAT RESPECT AND THEN DENY WHEN IT'S CALLED OUT ON IT. SO THERE'S A LOT OF WORK THAT NEEDS TO BE DONE, TO SAY THE LEAST.

Steve says LET'S DO AN EXCERPT FROM THE BOOK, HERE. SHELDON, IF YOU WANT TO BRING UP THIS GRAPHIC WE'LL DO THIS EXCERPT FROM JUSTIN LING'S BOOK...

A quote appears on screen, under the title "Invisible victims." The quote reads "Bruce McArthur's victims were vulnerable in similar ways. They were marginalized because the police spent so many decades marginalizing the entire community. Individual detectives may have treated this case with all the seriousness and empathy it required, but that can't undo every other homophobic remark from someone in uniform, every morality raid on a gay bar, every queer person who died in police custody, every trans homicide that was allowed to go unsolved. More than that, his victims faced trauma that helped create narratives to explain away their disappearance. War, torture, violence, illness, assault -those experiences shaped these men's lives, and may have contributed to their mental health struggles and substance abuse. But it should not have meant that their disappearance deserved less public scrutiny or concern from the police."
Quoted from Justin Ling, "Missing from the Village." 2020.

Steve says IN YOUR VIEW, JUSTIN, WHAT DOES ALL THAT SAY ABOUT THE NATURE OF THE POLICE SERVICE IN ONTARIO'S CAPITAL CITY?

Justin says I THINK IT SAYS THAT THE WHOLE SYSTEM IS IN MANY RESPECTS BROKEN. AND, I MEAN, THIS IS SOMETHING I THINK WE'RE GRAPPLING WITH, NOT JUST IN TORONTO BUT ACROSS THE COUNTRY AND ACROSS NORTH AMERICA. THERE IS A FUNDAMENTAL MISMATCH BETWEEN OUR PUBLIC SAFETY INSTITUTIONS AND THE COMMUNITY WHO ARE MOST AT RISK AND WHO NEED THAT HELP THE MOST. YOU KNOW, THERE'S A REAL CONVERSATION BEING HAD ABOUT THE WAYS IN WHICH COMMUNITIES LIKE RACIALIZED COMMUNITIES, INDIGENOUS COMMUNITIES, AND QUEER COMMUNITIES, ARE OFTEN, IN VERY CONTRADICTORY WAYS, OVERPOLICED BUT UNDERPROTECTED. YOU'RE MORE LIKELY TO GET PICKED UP FOR DEALING DRUGS OR HAVING DRUGS PERSONALLY OR FOR SEX WORK OR VAGRANCY OR SMALL THINGS THAT DON'T MATTER IN TERMS OF PUBLIC SAFETY. YOU'RE MORE LIKELY TO GET PICKED UP AND PROSECUTED IF YOU'RE RACIALIZED, IF YOU'RE INDIGENOUS, IF YOU'RE IN THE VILLAGE. BUT YOU'RE LESS LIKELY TO HAVE YOUR DISAPPEARANCE, YOUR HOMICIDE OR YOUR ASSAULT SOLVED. SO WHAT DOES THAT SAY ABOUT OUR INSTITUTIONS, THAT THE VERY PEOPLE WE RECOGNIZE ARE THE MOST TARGETED AND VULNERABLE, ARE ALSO THE ONES WHO ARE MOST HARASSED AND TARGETED BY THE POLICE BUT ALSO WHO ARE LEAST PROTECTED. THAT IS A FUNDAMENTAL PROBLEM THAT WE HAVE NOT GRAPPLED WITH IN A FULSOME ENOUGH WAY. I MEAN, THIS IS NOT NEW. IN THE BOOK I GO BACK TO THE 1970s AND '80s TO SHOW THAT, EVEN AS THE BATHHOUSE RAIDS WERE HAPPENING, EVEN AS THIS HARASSMENT OF THE COMMUNITY WAS HAPPENING, HOMICIDES AGAINST QUEER PEOPLE WERE SKYROCKETING AND GOING UNSOLVED AT A RATE SIGNIFICANTLY HIGHER THAN THE REST OF THE COMMUNITY. SO THE PARALLELS TO MODERN DAY I THINK ARE REALLY STAGGERING. ALSO CONSIDER THE FACT THAT AS MEN WERE STILL GOING MISSING FROM THE CHURCH AND WELLESLEY VILLAGE, THERE WERE MORALITY RAIDS HAPPENING IN PARKS, TARGETING MEN WHO WERE HOOKING UP IN THE BUSHES, ESSENTIALLY. YOU HAVE TO ASK YOURSELF: WHY WAS IT WE DIDN'T HAVE ADEQUATE RESOURCES INVESTIGATING MISSING PERSONS CASES, BUT WE HAD PLENTY OF RESOURCES TO SEND UNDERCOVER COPS INTO BUSHES TO ARREST PEOPLE WHO WERE FRANKLY DOING NOTHING WRONG. SO IT IS A REAL CONVERSATION THAT'S HAPPENING RIGHT NOW AROUND DEFUNDING THE POLICE, BUT I THINK IT'S A GOOD ONE. BUT IT ALSO HAS TO BE ABOUT REALLOCATING RESOURCES AWAY FROM DRUG BUSTS AND PROSTITUTION STINGS AND MORALITY POLICING TOWARDS THE ACTUAL PUBLIC SAFETY MANDATE THAT WE NEED TO BE FULFILLING AND ENSURING THAT HOMICIDES AND MISSING PERSONS CASES DON'T GET IGNORED, DON'T GO UNSOLVED, AND DON'T BECOME COLD CASES.

Steve says AT THE RISK OF INCURRING YOUR WRATH LET ME FOLLOW UP: IS THE RELATIONSHIP OR HAS THE RELATIONSHIP BETWEEN THE POLICE AND THE COMMUNITY BEEN SO BAD THAT THE COMMUNITY HAS NOT BEEN AS HELPFUL OR AS FORTHCOMING WITH TIPS AND LEADS TO THE POLICE AS PERHAPS OTHER COMMUNITIES MIGHT BE? I DON'T KNOW. I'M ASKING THE QUESTION.

Justin says IT'S A FAIR QUESTION, AND I THINK THERE'S SOME TRUTH TO IT. I THINK WHEN YOU PUT IT ON THE COMMUNITY, YOU HAVE TO ASK, WELL, WHY AREN'T THEY COMING FORWARD? WHY ARE THEY SKEPTICAL? WHY ARE THEY HESITANT. IN SOME RESPECTS, I'VE SPOKEN TO PEOPLE WHO PROBABLY HAD USEFUL INFORMATION ABOUT THIS INVESTIGATION WHO HAD BEEN IGNORED OR BELITTLED OR SEEMINGLY KIND OF CAST ASIDE WHEN THEY CAME FORWARD WITH INFORMATION ABOUT AN ASSAULT OR ABOUT A SEXUAL ASSAULT. SO YOU HAVE TO PULL APART THE REASONS WHY SOMEONE MIGHT NOT BE WILLING TO HAND OVER INFORMATION. IT'S NOT BECAUSE THERE'S SOME SORT OF INNATE HATRED OF POLICE IN THE QUEER COMMUNITY. THAT WOULD BE ABSURD. THERE'S A REASON WHY THAT DISTRUST EXISTS. THAT BEING SAID, LIKE I SAID EARLIER, THERE WERE A LOT OF PEOPLE WITH INFORMATION WHO VOLUNTEERED IT DESPITE RISK TO THEMSELVES. THEY OVERCAME THAT MISTRUST, THAT APPREHENSION, AND IN THE END, THAT INFORMATION WAS EXTREMELY VALUABLE. I'VE SPOKEN TO PEOPLE WHO ARE NO GREAT FANS OF THE TORONTO POLICE SERVICE WHO WENT INTO A DETACHMENT TO SAY, HEY, LISTEN, THE LAST TIME I SAW MY FRIEND WAS WITH A GUY NAMED BRUCE McARTHUR. THAT WAS IN 2013. YOU HAVE TO ASK THE QUESTION, WHY IS IT THE CHIEF INSISTED ON MAKING THOSE REMARKS? I THINK IN MANY RESPECTS YOU CANNOT JUST MAKE THE INFERENCE, I'LL SAY IT OUTRIGHT: I THINK THE CHIEF WAS TRYING TO SHIFT BLAME AWAY FROM HIS OWN SERVICE, WHICH FAILED, ONTO THE COMMUNITY, WHICH WAS FAILED. I THINK THAT'S REALLY GALLING AND I DON'T THINK THE CHIEF HAS EVER PROPERLY OWNED UP TO THAT REALITY. THE CHIEF WAS ON YOUR PROGRAM JUST A COUPLE OF MONTHS AGO KIND OF SHRUGGING OFF THE IDEA THAT THE COMMUNITY WAS NOT TERRIBLY FOND OF HIM SAYING, WELL, ON THE STREETS, SOME PEOPLE LIKE ME, SOME PEOPLE DON'T LIKE ME. WHAT ARE YOU GOING TO DO? THAT IS SUCH A BLASE ATTITUDE TO PUT ON THE COMMUNITY THE FAILINGS OF YOUR INSTITUTION. HE SHOULD HAVE BEEN ASKING FOR PENANCE. HE SHOULD HAVE BEEN ACTUALLY APOLOGIZING. AND I'LL NOTE, JUST WHILE I'M ON MY RANT HERE, WHEN THE CHIEF, QUOTE, UNQUOTE, APOLOGIZED FOR THE BATHHOUSE RAIDS IN 1981, HE NEVER SAID "I'M SORRY." HE SAID MISTAKES WERE MADE AND HE SAID WE WOULDN'T DO IT TODAY AND ALL THAT. A QUEER ACTIVIST POINTED THIS OUT TO ME. HE NEVER SAID THE WORD "SORRY." I'M NOT SURE HE IS SORRY. I HEAR FROM OFFICES WHO DEFENDED THE BATHHOUSE RAIDS, WHO THOUGHT THE COMMUNITY WAS IN THE WRONG. I THINK THERE HAS TO BE A LOT MORE INTROSPECTION AT THE TOP LEVEL OF THE TORONTO POLICE SERVICE. I KNOW THERE'S A LOT OF INTROSPECTION HAPPENING ON THE LOWER LEVELS, FOR INDIVIDUAL OFFICERS, INDIVIDUAL INVESTIGATORS. THEY ARE ACTUALLY CONFRONTING SOME OF THE ISSUES AT PLAY HERE. I THINK THEY'RE DOING A GREAT JOB OF IT. I THINK YOU HAVE TO START ASKING WHY THE CHIEF AND THE HIGHER-UPS AREN'T DOING THE SAME.

Steve says I HAVE ASKED THIS QUESTION OF OTHER PEOPLE WHO HAVE COVERED REALLY HORRENDOUS STORIES OVER THE YEARS, BE IT THE BERNARDO MURDERS OR PICKTON CASE OR OTHERS, AND I'M CURIOUS AS TO WHAT YOUR ANSWER WILL BE TO IT SO I'M GOING TO PUT IT TO YOU. WHAT KIND OF EMOTIONAL TOLL DOES IT PUT ON YOU TO REPORT ON THIS STORY AND WRITE A VERY GOOD BOOK ABOUT IT?

The caption changes to "The toll of covering heinous crimes."

Justin says IT UNDOUBTEDLY TAKES A TOLL. THERE WERE TIMES WRITING THIS BOOK WHERE I HAD TO STAND UP AND WALK AWAY BECAUSE I WAS BAWLING, I COULDN'T STOP CRYING AT CERTAIN CIRCUMSTANCES. THERE ARE PARTS OF THIS GROUP THAT STILL REDUCE ME TO TEARS. THERE ARE REALITIES OF THESE MEN'S LIVES THAT ARE ABSOLUTELY HEARTBREAKING. THAT BEING SAID, I THINK I WAS IN A GOOD PLACE TO WRITE THIS BOOK, YOU KNOW? I WAS NOT THE ONE PERSONALLY AFFECTED BY THIS INVESTIGATION. I SPOKE TO PEOPLE WHO WERE INVOLVED WITH THIS WHO HAD TO DEAL WITH THEIR FRIEND'S DISAPPEARANCE IN 2010, WHO HAD TO DEAL WITH THE REOPENING OF THE INVESTIGATION IN 2013, WHO HAD TO DEAL WITH ME HARASSING THEM IN 2015 AND 2016 AND 2017, WHO HAD TO DEAL WITH THE CASE BEING REOPENED IN 2017, THE TRIAL IN 2019, AND THE REVIEW IN 2020. FOR THEM THIS HAS BEEN A DECADE. I CAN'T EVEN... IN SOME RESPECTS I DON'T EVEN LIKE TALKING ABOUT WHAT TOLL IT'S TAKEN ON ME BECAUSE IT IS NOTHING COMPARED TO THE UNTHINKABLE TRAUMA AND PAIN AND HURT THAT HAS BEEN EXPERIENCED BY SO MANY PEOPLE IN THE COMMUNITY AND IN THESE MEN'S LIVES FOR THE LAST DECADE. SO I THINK WHAT THIS BOOK HAS TAUGHT ME IS THAT WE NEED TO HAVE A BETTER CONVERSATION ABOUT HOW WE TAKE CARE OF THOSE PEOPLE, RIGHT? BECAUSE IT'S REALLY HARD FOR THESE FOLKS TO GET BACK TO A REGULAR LIFE, TO FIND EMPLOYMENT. BECAUSE A LOT OF THE TIMES THEY NOW HAVE INCOME ISSUES TO LOOK AFTER THEIR KIDS AND THEIR FAMILY MEMBERS, YOU KNOW, TO GO ABOUT THEIR DAILY LIVES. AND THERE'S NOT A LOT OF SUPPORT FOR THEM, TO BE TOTALLY HONEST. OUR SOCIETY DOESN'T THINK A LOT ABOUT FOLKS WHO HAVE HAD TO GO THROUGH THIS. THERE ARE NO CONSISTENT, CONSTANT, AND DEDICATED SUPPORTS FOR THEM. AND I THINK IT'S A REAL SHAME. I THINK THERE REALLY OUGHT TO BE SOME LEVEL OF SUPPORT NETWORK FOR THESE PEOPLE AND REALLY, OUTSIDE OF THE COURT SYSTEM IN SOME RESPECTS AND IN SOME CASES THE POLICE, THERE REALLY ISN'T.

The caption changes to "Producer: Carla Lucchetta, @carrletta."

Steve says WELL, YOU'VE DONE A REAL SERVICE SPENDING THE TIME YOU DID GETTING THIS BOOK PUBLISHED AND GETTING THIS STORY TO THE PUBLIC SO CONGRATULATIONS TO YOU FOR DOING IT. "MISSING FROM THE VILLAGE: THE STORY OF SERIAL KILLER BRUCE MCARTHUR, THE SEARCH FOR JUSTICE, AND THE SYSTEM THAT FAILED TORONTO'S QUEER COMMUNITY." JUSTIN LING, IT'S GOOD OF YOU TO SPEND SO MUCH TIME WITH US ON TVO TONIGHT. MANY THANKS.

Justin says THANKS, STEVE.

Watch: Justin Ling: Reporting on Toronto's Serial Killer