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04/02/2018 22:03 EDT | Updated 04/03/2018 15:24 EDT

Pride Toronto Asks Police To Withdraw From March Amid Anger Over Bruce McArthur Case

The police didn't properly investigate disappearances now linked to alleged serial killer Bruce McArthur, Pride Toronto said.

Mark Blinch/CANADIAN PRESS
A woman holds a flag during the Pride parade in Toronto on June 25, 2017.

Pride Toronto is asking the Toronto police force to withdraw its request to march in this year's parade because of concerns over the investigation into alleged serial killer Bruce McArthur.

McArthur's arrest "has added a new poignancy and a new pain to the fears that sit at the heart of anyone who lives a life of difference," Pride Toronto said in a statement Monday, along with other community organizations that serve the city's LGBTQ community.

"We will rally and ride, but it will be with heavy hearts, as we have not yet begun to grapple with our anger, shock, and grief.

"[Victims] Majeed Kayhan, Sorough Mahmudi, Dean Lisowick, Selim Esen, Andrew Kinsman, Skandaraj Navaratnam, and a man who remains unidentified. These men were part of our communities and so a part of our family ... The individual stories and lived experiences of each of these people were unique. But what they did share was that the investigations into their disappearances were insufficient, community knowledge and expertise was not accessed and despite the fact that many of us felt and voiced our concerns, we were dismissed."

McArthur, a 66-year-old landscaper, has been charged in the deaths of six men who disappeared from or had ties to Toronto's gay village. Police released a photo of an unidentified seventh victim in March.

Police Chief Mark Saunders angered many in the queer community in February, when he suggested that an arrest could have been made sooner if people had been more cooperative with investigators.

He told the Globe and Mail that "nobody'' came to officers with information in 2012 when police launched Project Houston, an unsuccessful investigation into the disappearances of multiple men.

"This is actually just going to push that divide a bit further and not allow people to work together,'' said Haran Vijayanathan, executive director of the Alliance for South Asian AIDS Prevention, one of the groups that signed Monday's statement. "The chief is creating his own problems now.''

Watch: What we know about alleged serial killer McArthur

'The community tried to tell them'

There was already tension between the community and police over the string of disappearances.

People felt that the police dismissed their concerns, community member Alphonso King told the Canadian Press in January.

"The community tried to tell them, 'We think it's a serial killer, we think that the cases are related, we think that there's a possibility that it was all tied to one of the (dating) apps or something like that, that there has to be a link,' and they assured us that there wasn't," King said. "They completely dismissed that notion."

Marching won't contribute towards solving these issues; they are beyond the reach of symbolic gestures.Pride Toronto statement

Toronto police did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

In 2016, Pride Toronto agreed to exclude police floats from future parades after Black Lives Matter staged a sit-in during the march. "Police are a group of people who have brought so much trauma and so much violence to our community," Black Lives Matter Toronto co-founder Pascale Diverlus told HuffPost at the time.

In its statement Monday, Pride Toronto said the relationship "cannot be mended through a parade."

"Marching won't contribute towards solving these issues; they are beyond the reach of symbolic gestures ... People are scared for themselves and for the lives of their friends and families."

With files from the Canadian Press

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