OTTAWA — A Toronto landscaper pleaded guilty to eight murders on Tuesday in a case that traumatized the gay community in Canada’s largest city.
The landscaper, Bruce McArthur, 67, was arrested a year ago and initially charged with killing six men, dismembering them and hiding the pieces in planters on the property of a client who allowed him to store tools there.
Additional remains were uncovered in a ravine behind the house where he had transformed planters into graves.
Mr. McArthur’s case opened a rift between Toronto’s police force and many members of the city’s gay community.
For about eight years, activists say, the police were uninterested in pursuing missing persons cases involving gay men or members of minority groups in and around a strip of Church Street. lined with business catering to gays, and dismissed fears that a serial killer was at work.
Six of the victims were of South Asian or Middle Eastern descent.
The ill will has brought relations between the Toronto’s gay community and police to a low not seen since 1981, when the force staged raids of four bathhouses and arrested more than 300 men, then the largest mass arrest in the city’s history.
Most of the people charged then were subjected to taunts about their sexuality by police officers.
Ultimately, the majority of the people charged were acquitted. Large protests followed the raids and the incident has come to be seen as a pivotal moment in Canada’s gay rights movement.
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Mr. McArthur pleaded guilty to the first-degree murders of Skandaraj Navaratnam, Abdulbasir Faizi, Andrew Kinsman, Majeed Kayhan, Soroush Mahmudi, Kirushna Kumar Kanagaratnam, Dean Lisowick and Selim Esen.
Under Canadian law, the maximum sentence for first-degree murder is life in prison with no chance of parole for 25 years.
Since 2011, judges have been allowed to impose consecutive sentences in mass murder cases. In Mr. McArthur’s case, that would mean he would die in prison, since he could not apply for parole for 200 years.
His sentencing was scheduled for Feb. 4.
In the 1990s, Mr. McArthur, married father of two, left his wife in Oshawa, Ontario, and moved to Toronto where he became a figure on the Church Street scene.
In 2003, Mr. McArthur was given a conditional sentence for attacking a man with a metal pipe. He was then barred by the court from the Church Street area.