The murders of eight men from Toronto’s Gay Village still weigh heavy on members of the community — while they may be gone they have not been forgotten.
Ryerson’s Human Rights Services held a vigil in the Student Learning Centre on Friday to remember the victims of Bruce McArthur, the serial killer who plead guilty in the slayings of these men last year. McArthur was sentenced in February to serve life in prison and is not eligible for parole for 25 years.
The vigil was held to acknowledge the group of men that lost their lives, many of whom were of south Asian or Middle Eastern descent and were not out to their families. Tanya De Mello, the organizer of the event, spoke to the crowd about the importance of having a space to grieve and heal as a community.
“We want the vigil to honour the men and remember who they were,” said De Mello in her address. The grief was intensified as speakers also mentioned the 49 victims who were killed in New Zealand yesterday, an attack that also targeted marginalized communities.
Jean-Pierre Fernandes, a campus engagement specialist at Ryerson, described the Church and Wellesley neighbourhood as a place where people can be safe. In his address, Fernandes said that McArthur’s victims and the dozens killed in New Zealand are a reminder that discrimination has no boundaries.
Ryerson community members from various groups and clubs attended the vigil to pay their respects. The room was somber and reflective, with photos of the men who lost their lives on display and candles lit along the aisle.
The event allotted time to remember each of the victims, giving members of the community a glimpse of who each person was.
Skandaraj Navararatnam, or ‘Skanda’ as his friends called him, was an immigrant from Sri Lanka and beloved by his family. Majeed Kayhan was an Afghan immigrant who leaves behind two children, three grandchildren and many nieces and nephews.
Soroush Mahmudi was a refugee from Iran who came to Canada at age 20. Kirushna Kanagaratnam travelled overseas to Canada for three months and was described as being happy when he arrived in Canada in 2010 at the prospect of a better future.
Andrew Kinsman is remembered as an active member of Toronto’s LGBTQ community, known for his compassion and kindness. Dean Lisowick was an artistic talent and remembered as a strong ally for members of the Gay Village.
Selim Esen was described as a friendly and inquisitive person who had a love for gardening and standing up for social justice.
Haran Vijayanathan, executive director of the Alliance for South Asian AIDS Prevention (ASAAP), expressed to attendees that it shouldn’t take the deaths of eight men to raise awareness for gaps in the system that relate to intersectionality issues.
“The victims are beacons of hope for change, so tragedies like this don’t happen again,” Vijayanathan said in his address.