Update June 10, 2020
A MESSAGE FROM JUDGE GLORIA J. EPSTEIN DURING PRIDE MONTH.
Before taking a moment to update you on our work, I felt it was important to acknowledge two things that bring the Review’s work into particularly sharp focus. First, June is Pride month. Of course, Pride events must, for now, take place virtually. But Pride month reminds us all that Toronto’s diversity is to be celebrated and embraced. It is an opportunity to renew our commitment to a truly inclusive city.
Second, recent tragic events, including but not limited to George Floyd’s death, the criminal charges, and protests that followed, have reverberated around the world. They reinforce the broader context of the Review’s mandate.
These all serve as a reminder to me and my entire Review team that our work is important. Critically important.
The Review’s work continues despite the obvious challenges associated with COVID-19. As reflected in previous updates, the Review team is conducting all interviews by videoconference or teleconference. Many such interviews have now been completed. I expect the balance will be done by mid-July 2020. These interviews involve stakeholders, families and friends of those who went missing, other affected community members, civilians, police officers and government officials with relevant information, and experts on a variety of issues. For example, the Review recently conducted interviews with experts from Great Britain on how missing person cases are prioritized, assessed for risk and investigated, and on how police services work with affected community members. At the same time, we are examining best practices across Canada.
Recently, we closed our engagement survey. The survey asked community members to respond to questions about how the Toronto Police Service investigates missing persons and on the Service’s relationship to Toronto’s diverse communities. Recent events, including George Floyd’s death and the criminal charges against police officers that followed, reinforce the importance of our work in defining how the Toronto Police Service relates to our own communities and in making recommendations for change.
At the beginning of this Review, I announced a robust community outreach and engagement plan. The plan provided everyone with the full opportunity to be heard in a variety of ways. That approach has been rewarded by a truly overwhelming response. One thousand people responded to the survey. Hundreds of people and many organizations met with me. Thank you to everyone who has contributed to the Review’s work.
In the continuing spirit of full community outreach and engagement, I am extending the deadline for written submissions or comments from June 30, 2020 to August 31, 2020 to provide additional opportunities for individuals and organizations to be heard. This extension also reflects the challenges at so many levels faced by so many people in dealing with the pandemic. Our website describes how to make written submissions or comments to the Review, whether attributed or anonymously.