Judge named to head review of Toronto police handling of missing person cases
The Toronto Police Services Board has named a long-serving Ontario judge to head an independent review of how Toronto police handle cases of missing persons.
The police board said Monday that Justice Gloria J. Epstein will lead the review.
“An Independent Review into Missing Person Investigations is a necessary and vital step to identify systemic issues and improve trust with Toronto’s vulnerable communities,” Toronto Police Services Board Chair Andy Pringle said in a statement. “Justice Epstein will bring legal rigour and reputational excellence to this important process and I look forward to the results of her work.”
Epstein was appointed to the Ontario Superior Court of Justice in 1993 and to the Court of Appeal for Ontario in 2007. She has served as a part-time judge since 2015.
Her rulings include a landmark 1996 decision which found that the definition of a spouse under Ontario law was unconstitutional because it discriminated against same-sex couples. In the late 90s, Epstein also headed a review into the government’s involvement in the lives of the Dionne quintuplets.
According to the release, Epstein has also tapped lawyer Mark Sandler to serve as legal counsel for the review.
“It is vitally important that we learn from the past to ensure every Toronto resident is kept safe in the future,” Mayor John Tory, who sits on the police board, said in a statement. “It is my hope that this Review, led by Justice Epstein, will identify systemic barriers and offer real enhancements to police process while improving the feeling of safety, security and respect within our vulnerable communities.”
The establishment of the review follows several high-profile cases which raised questions about how police investigate missing persons.
Those cases include the November 2017 death of Tess Richey, a young woman whose body was found by her mother in an outdoor stairwell, just a short distance away from where she was last seen. While police were sent to Richey’s last known location the day after she was reported missing, it wasn’t until her mother went searching for her several days later that her body was found.
Critics have also questioned whether more could have been done to search for several men who went missing and are believed to have become victims of alleged serial killer Bruce McArthur.
While the review won’t look at the investigation into McArthur, it will examine how missing persons cases connected to the investigation were handled.
As part of the review, Epstein will examine how missing person cases are reported and handled, as well as the relationship between Toronto police and the LGBTQ2 and homeless communities, and other groups.
Likened in scope to the G20 review, the missing persons review is expected to get underway later this year and last through 2019.
Epsetin’s appointment to head the review comes after the police board last week approved the terms of reference and a $3 million budget request suggested by a working group.
The budget will still have to be approved by Toronto City Council.