Update February 26, 2020

Updated: Mar 2, 2020

Update of the Review’s Activities

Here is an update of the Review’s work.

The Public Outreach and Engagement Plan – On April 23, 2019, the Review announced its robust public outreach and engagement plan. The plan was designed to provide all members of the public, groups and organizations with a variety of ways to contribute to the Review’s work:

· Stakeholder meetings

· Participation in surveys

· Written comments or submissions, anonymously or otherwise

· Participation in policy roundtable

· Participation in a town hall meeting

Stakeholder Meetings

Shortly after the announcement of the Review’s outreach and engagement plan, Judge Epstein and her team began to meet with stakeholder groups. Just under 90 groups or organizations were initially identified by the Review’s Community Advisory Group. The Review invited the organizations to meet with Judge Epstein. Many chose to do so, sharing their perspectives, experiences and recommendations. The Review continued to identify other groups or organizations or individuals to meet with. In some instances, organizations, groups or individuals approached the Review. Everyone participating in stakeholder meetings had the option of contributing to the Review’s work with or without attribution.

This outreach is intended to give Judge Epstein the opportunity to hear the widest range of experiences and perspectives from Toronto’s diverse communities. This meant that Judge Epstein met with those who work with vulnerable or marginalized communities as well as with members of those communities themselves.

The Review recognizes that even within a particular vulnerable or marginalized community, the perspectives and experiences of its members vary greatly, in part due to the intersection of race, colour, sex, sexual orientation, gender identity or expression, ethnic origin, place of origin, immigration, marital, family or socio-economic status and other factors. For example, the experience of a Black gay man in interacting with police may well be different than the experience of a South Asian lesbian woman or a Two-Spirited Indigenous person. That is why it has been and remains important to hear from everyone interested in speaking to the Review about the issues identified in its Terms of Reference. No one has been turned away.

Meetings have generally taken place in community settings, again designed to permit participants to share their stories in a safe and welcoming space.

For example, on October 24, 2019, an Indigenous Community Meeting was held at the Native Canadian Centre of Toronto. Christa Big Canoe, a member of the Community Advisory Group and three Elder Advisors facilitated the meeting. The meeting was designed to enable Indigenous community members to share their lived experiences and views in a supportive and culturally appropriate environment.

Online Surveys

On November 12, 2019, the Review launched a new online survey as part of its ongoing efforts to solicit public input. The survey can be found at www.missingpersonsurvey.ca or at the Review’s website. The survey was developed with the support of a professional public opinion research firm, as well as with the input of the Review’s Community Advisory Group. The survey poses a series of questions intended to assist the Review in its work. It included questions to elicit public attitudes toward the TPS and the Toronto Police Services Board, personal interactions with the TPS and impressions of the effectiveness and responsiveness of the TPS, particularly with respect to missing person investigations. The survey is strictly anonymous. It is not designed to create statistically valid data on percentages of the population who share certain attitudes or beliefs, but as another way to engage and obtain the views of many community members.

The Review is pleased to report that almost 1,000 people have completed the survey to date. It will remain “live” until April 30, 2020.

Written submissions

In several public announcements, the Review invited anyone, whether individuals, groups or organizations, to make written comments or submissions to the Review through its website, either anonymously or otherwise. The Review also invited stakeholders its team met with, as well as a range of legal organizations to provide written submissions. The Review has extended the deadline for written comments or submissions to June 30, 2020.

Policy Roundtable

The Review is assembling a number of experts on issues relevant to its mandate, together with some community members, to participate, by invitation, in discussions on topics, including:

· The relationships between the police and vulnerable or marginalized communities, and approaches to overcome the legacy of those relationships

· Alternative models of investigating missing person cases

· Issues surrounding police culture, and accountability

· Communication between police and affected communities to promote transparency, accountability and confidence, while removing barriers to reporting and preserving the integrity of ongoing investigations.

These policy discussions are intended to generate practical and innovative recommendations to address issues raised by the Review’s Terms of Reference.

Those not participating in the policy roundtable will have the opportunity to contribute to the Review’s work through all the other components of the outreach and engagement, including a town hall meeting to which all members of the public are invited.

Town Hall Meeting

In early June 2020, the Review will hold a town hall meeting. Judge Epstein and her lead counsel, Mark Sandler, will report to the public on the Review’s progress to date, and the anticipated work remaining. This is another important opportunity for members of the public to provide their comments or perspectives – in this instance, in a public setting.

Document Review – The Review’s legal team has examined about 80,000 pages of documents obtained from the Toronto Police Services Board and the TPS. The Review has also obtained documents from a variety of other sources. These additional documents include publicly accessible reports, and electronic and print media stories. They assist the Review team in its many interviews with police, as well as ultimately informing Judge Epstein’s fact-finding.

Police interviews– The Review has conducted a significant number of interviews of TBPS police officers and civilian employees who were involved in some way in the 10 investigations specifically identified in our Terms of Reference or who have knowledge of policies, procedures, or practices in place relevant to the systemic issues under consideration. The Review has also conducted and will continue to conduct interviews of police officers and civilians associated with other police services who were involved in some way in the 10 investigations or who have knowledge of relevant policies, procedures, or practices in other jurisdictions or of existing provincial adequacy standards.

Civilian interviews – The Review has conducted many interviews of civilians who have relevant information about or knowledge of the 10 investigations specifically identified in our Terms of Reference, other TPS missing person investigations or background information relevant to the Review’s work. These interviews include a number of civilians who reported the disappearance of friends, family or loved ones to the TPS. Information obtained through these interviews can assist the Review in evaluating how such reports are handled by TPS at first instance. These interviews also include friends, family or loved ones of those deceased individuals identified in our Terms of Reference giving Judge Epstein’s Report an opportunity to memorialize those whose lives were lost.

Research Program– The Review hired Professor Kent Roach as its Research Director. Under Professor Roach’s leadership, the Review commissioned four papers from leading academics and other experts on issues relevant to its mandate. These papers are now posted to this website see Research Program here. They do not represent the views of the Review, but are intended to stimulate discussion and inform Judge Epstein’s work. Other research projects are ongoing.

The research program also involves examination of best practices around the world both in relation to missing person investigations and relationship building between police and vulnerable or marginalized communities. Judge Epstein, Professor Roach and Mark Sandler will be participating in meetings in London, England in May 2020 to draw upon international expertise. The Review’s research program also involves examination of the recommendations made by relevant public inquiries or systemic reviews.

Community Advisory Group – The Review’s Community Advisory Group meets regularly to provide advice to Judge Epstein and to facilitate the Review’s community outreach and engagement. The Community Advisory Group will continue to meet throughout the Review.

Important Dates

September 1, 2018 -- The Review’s work commenced.

January 29, 2019 -- Bruce McArthur entered pleas of guilty to eight counts of murder. A week later, McArthur was sentenced to life imprisonment with no parole eligibility for 25 years.

March 26, 2019 -- The Review’s Terms of Reference were expanded to permit the Review to fully examine the missing person investigations relating to Bruce McArthur

April 23, 2019 -- The Review announced its public outreach and engagement plan.

Commencing April 23, 2019, any member of the public, group or organization was invited to provide written submissions to the Review. These submissions must be submitted on or before June 30, 2020.

Mid-May, 2019 -- Stakeholder’s meetings commenced.

November 12, 2019 -- The Review launched its online survey to gather public input and perspectives.

June 2020 -- A town hall will take place. All members of the public are welcome to attend.

January 31, 2021 -- Judge Epstein’s Report will be completed on or before this date.

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Update November 27, 2020

On November 9, 2020, the Review requested an extension of no more than two months to complete its work, and an increase in its budget allocation. The written request is attached. The request reflects