The homeowners of a mid-Toronto home now known for being the site where serial killer Bruce McArthur buried the remains of many of his victims held a memorial on Saturday to mark the second anniversary of his arrest.
Braving the cold, pastors and community members joined owners Karen Fraser and Ron Smith on their front lawn at 53 Mallory Cres. to honour the victims and celebrate their lives.
“It’s never going to be over,” Fraser told CBC Toronto Saturday. “It’s just one of those things that seems to stay with people.”
Two years ago today, McArthur was arrested for a string of killings that shocked the nation.
The remains of seven victims were found in garden planters McArthur kept at their home. He stored tools there for about a decade in exchange for landscaping.
On the same day, Fraser and Smith had to leave their home while police searched their property.
McArthur pleaded guilty last year to eight counts of first-degree murder in the deaths of eight men between 2010 and 2017. Most of the victims, as well as McArthur himself, had deep ties to Toronto’s Gay Village neighbourhood.
He will be eligible to apply for parole after at least 25 years in prison for the grisly murders and will be 91 when his first chance at parole comes up.
Special church service on Sunday
As the city’s LGBTQ community continues to navigate through its shock, grief and loss, the Metropolitan Community Church is holding a special service Sunday.
“Each and every one of them had individual lives and unique stories,” Jeff Rock, the church’s senior pastor said Saturday.
“One of them liked to bake a chocolate stout cake and had a cat. Another one was a new Canadian who had come here on a ship from Sri Lanka.”
Despite the tragedy, Rock says now — two years later — some good has come from the loss.
“Different communities have come together, new friendships have been made and I think we’re working together to make sure this kind of a thing can never happen again.”
Owner pushing for permanent memorial
Refusing to let McArthur define their home, Fraser and Smith say they held Saturday’s memorial to help others heal.
“We don’t want the families to think that everyone has just forgotten and moved on because we’re fine,” Fraser said. “There has to be a moment for such tragedies.”
That’s why she’s now working to set up a permanent memorial in the park across from her house. Fraser says she wants to create a place where people can honour the victims to ensure they won’t be forgotten.
The city says it has been consulted on the idea of a permanent memorial and “discussions are ongoing.”
“In this case we would undertake consultation on any permanent memorial with the victims’ families, Toronto’s LGBTQ2S communities, and residents,” said Jane Arbour, a spokesperson with the urban forestry department.
“Our hearts are with the family and friends of those whose lives were taken and with communities that continue to grieve.”