Call for Action on Missing South Asian and Middle Eastern Men
The Alliance for South Asian AIDS Prevention (ASAAP) is the only registered HIV/AIDS service organization in Ontario that serves South Asian and Middle Eastern communities living with and or affected by HIV. We were founded by members of the South Asian LGBTQ+ community over 29 years ago. We are the only registered non-profit organization in Ontario supporting the South Asian LGBTQ+ communities and work alongside many collectives and groups that continue to serve the South Asian and Middle Eastern communities.
It is a tragedy to hear of the deaths of Selim Esen and Andrew Kinsman. Andrew was a valued member of the HIV/AIDS non-profit sector and ASAAP had the privilege of working with him through the Toronto HIV Network. We express our deepest sympathies to the family and friends of Andrew and Selim.
Given our roots in the community, we have an important perspective to offer on the recent cases of missing South Asian and Middle Eastern persons. We believe that the Toronto Police Service failed to provide adequate resources and effort in their investigations of the disappearances of Skanda Navaratnam (2010), Abdulbasir Faizi (2010), Majeed Kayhan (2012), and Selim Esen (2017). The disappearances of Navaratnam, Faizi, and Kayhan remain under investigation. Despite the initial public outcry, outreach and demand for an investigation in 2010 and then again in 2012 – Project Houston drew no conclusion for these victims. We hope that answers will come to light soon.
It is saddening and unacceptable that it took the disappearance of Andrew Kinsman to reopen public interest in the cases of the missing South Asian and Middle Eastern men. Families and friends of the respective men were not given the closure that they deserved in a timely manner. We strongly emphasize that racism and homophobia are systemic issues that affect every part of our society. A different standard of justice for racialized and LGBTQ+ people is the reality in our city and province.
Public trust between the Toronto Police Service and the LGBTQ+ South Asian and Middle Eastern communities is at risk. In order for the Toronto Police Service to foster a constructive relationship with the communities we represent, we call on the Toronto Police and City of Toronto to commit to the following actions:
- The Chief of the Toronto Police Service must ensure that the ongoing internal review into the investigation of missing persons examine whether the race or perceived sexuality of the men mentioned above led to inadequate investigations. The review must be publicly released.
- The Toronto Police Services Board must commission an external review by a third-party into the adequacy of the TPS investigations into the cases of Mr. Navaratnam, Mr. Faizi, Mr. Esen and Mr. Kayhan. The review should explicitly consider whether the race or perceived sexuality of the missing men affected the resources and quality of the investigation into their disappearances. The findings of the external review must be publicly released and acted upon.
ASAAP believes in being part of the solution. We remain committed to:
- Facilitating ongoing discussions with the Toronto Police Service and other organizations to ensure there is a strong understanding of our communities, and to find strategies to address future cases.
- Providing education and training to members of the Toronto Police so that they understand the unique issues facing South Asian and Middle Eastern LGBTQ+ communities. Such understanding is necessary for the Toronto Police to carry out their duties in a sensitive and timely fashion.
- In the event the remains of the missing South Asian and Middle Eastern men are found, and family or friends are not able to claim them, ASAAP will work with the Coroner’s office to claim them and ensure their appropriate interment.
Haran Vijayanathan Suchita Jain
Executive Director Board Chair