Missing and Missed Implementation Continues
Chief Myron Demkiw has reconfirmed his and the Service’s commitment to support the Missing and Missed Implementation Team (MMIT) and the completion of all 151 recommendations outlined in the report.
The Service and the MMIT hosted a community engagement event on April 15 at Toronto City Hall Rotunda to mark the second anniversary of the release of the Missing and Missed – Report of the Independent Civilian Review into Missing Persons Investigations.
Demkiw said the report makes clear ways the police can create a more trusting relationship with many communities in the city.
“This mistrust and the system itself has been many decades in the making, and the Missing and Missed report has highlighted the inconsistences,” he said. “We have learned so much from the report and we have continued to learn more over the past two years in large part because of the relationship building that occurred with community representatives. It is through these meaningful partnerships and relationships that we have come to learn just how deeply rooted the mistrust is in some communities. We must take responsibility for this and we do because this mistrust is directly related to our actions as a Service or, in some cases, our inaction.”
The Chief said he has learned a lot from the report and the implementation over the past two years.
“I have a much deeper understanding of the need for me to build stronger and deeper relationships with members of vulnerable and marginalized communities,” he said. “And in doing so, I must recognize that each person I connect with brings unique lived experiences to every interaction they have with me. Sometimes, these interactions are even more complex for those who belong to multiple vulnerable and marginalized communities. Depending on each individual’s unique combination of intersectional identities and the mistrust of the police that exists within their respective communities, it is likely that the mistrust of police is compounded.”
While recognizing that the errors of the past will not be addressed and resolved immediately, Demkiw said intentional efforts are being made to change for the better and that involves giving a voice to marginalized and vulnerable communities.
“We will continue to take action to better serve our communities by ensuring effective implementation of these recommendations, through a public and transparent processes, to sustain meaningful change over the long-term,” he pointed out.
Demkiw said the Service will move ahead with significant implementation decisions only after they have been discussed with the MMIT community representatives.
“These recommendations hold significant value for the Service, not only in their approach towards missing persons’ investigations, but in various other aspects of Service provision,” said Demkiw. “Through this process, our Service is striving to improve community relationships and investigate processes and build capacity in agencies and organizations to participate in improving missing persons processes.”
Five years ago, the Toronto Police Services Board (TPSB) approved the terms of reference for the review and appointed former Ontario Court of Appeal Judge Gloria Epstein to lead it.
Interim Board Chair Lisa Kostakis said the report was groundbreaking.
“That was the case in a number of critical ways with recommendations spanning a variety of important areas – policies, procedures, training, education, professional development and, arguably the most important, culture,” she said. “In embracing the report, we committed to not just a better way of moving forward, but a renewed approach to working with communities and acknowledging and working to address systemic discrimination in its many manifestations.
“It is important to note that every aspect of this process – the report, its recommendations, the implementation plan, and the ongoing evolution of the work – is founded on inclusivity and collaboration. This approach means the process is inevitably a slower one, but in many ways, it is a more meaningful one that will result in sustained and real transformation. We know that true change takes time.”
Kostakis and the rest of the Board commends the substantive and key changes they have seen in policies, practices and perspectives.
“We have confidence both in the substance of the work, and in its pace,” she noted. “We applaud the accessibility and transparency clearly inherent in all aspects of this process, including the public-facing dashboard that updates progress made in real time and tells us what still remains left to do.”
In thanking Service and community members who have been part of the process, Kostakis said they were an integral part of a significant process.
“This is a true partnership effort, with police and the public coming together in pursuit of important and common objectives to make real, lasting and meaningful change,” she added. “To everyone who has been a part of this wide-ranging process, and who continues to work with us in a transformative approach as we forge a path forward, we thank you.”
“You are making policing better for all Torontonians - those who speak out, those who have networks, those who can access systems, but also, those who cannot, who are disenfranchised, marginalized, and voiceless. It is through your efforts that we are rebuilding that vital trust so essential to our collective community safety and that we continue to build bridges with members of all the communities we serve.”
Ryan Teschner, Inspector General of Policing in Ontario, noted the report is not only to recognize tragedy but a path forward.
“It is also a roadmap and approach to better for those who go missing, better for their families, friends and loved ones, better for the 2SLGBTQ+ communities and their allies in the city,” noted the former TPSB Executive Director & Chief of Staff. “I have always been inspired by how community-led accountability, participation, design and implementation have been the animating feature of this review from its very first moment.
“…This second anniversary should serve as a reminder of the power we have when we work together, of the hope than can come from pain and from tragedy.”
For former Judge Gloria Epstein, who led the Independent Civilian Review into Missing Person Investigations and authored the subsequent report, said the experience made her better.
“If I had done the review before my 25 years as a judge, I would have been a better judge,” she noted. “The terms of reference were detailed, challenging, tough, they were meant to be and we needed them to be that way.”
Following the report release in April 2021, Staff Superintendent Pauline Gray was appointed to lead the recommendation implementation, including the assembly of the MMIT.
“This really is a special day for many of us,” she said. “It has been an interesting two years, not always perfect, but always open, honest and revealing. I thank all the community partners that have participated. It has been a learning experience for me like I have not had in 35 years in policing.”
Her co-chair is Haran Vijayanathan.
“The work of the MMIT is mindful and intentional about our work to ensure we work to address the harms of the past while we work to change the systems and create a better society for all,” he said.
Watch the livestream of speakers at the event below.