The families of a 24-year-old woman and a 13-year-old girl from the Treaty 4 territory in Saskatchewan continue to speak out on the injustices that left many unanswered questions in connection with the deaths of their loved ones.
“It was an experience no family should have to go through,” said Sheila Poorman, mother of Chelsea Poorman from the Kawacatoose First Nation.
Chelsea was described as a young lady who persevered through many difficult situations in her life, and had a heart of gold when it came to helping others.
“(She) wanted to help people as much as she can. One of the things that she loved to do was drive around in Saskatoon to hand out hot chocolate or coffee to those on the streets,” said Poorman. “She also wanted to do more, so she got me to drive to give them rides if they needed them.“
Chelsea dreamed of many things, her mother said, including a veterinarian, paramedic, musician, artist, fashion designer and makeup artist and moved west to pursue them. Poorman said her daughter had so much to live for but her life was taken too soon. Chelsea was last seen on Sept. 6, 2020 in downtown Vancouver.
“I myself went on Hastings Street for the first week looking for her (and) showing her picture to whoever would listen,” said Poorman. “I made posters to put up on social media. I did what I could, but felt defeated and alone looking for her.”
Chelsea’s remains were discovered about a year and a half later behind a vacant home in Vancouver’s Shaughnessy neighbourhood. In an earlier release, the Vancouver police said Chelsea’s cause of death may never be determined and said there was no evidence of foul play.
“I would watch the news and notice that others (who) go missing, they were on the news and Vancouver Police Department also made a press release for them the same day,” said Poorman. “It was so frustrating to see how they were treated compared to Chelsea.”
Similarly, a relative of 13-year-old Noelle O’Soup, who was originally from the Key First Nation in Saskatchewan, spoke on how accountability is needed from the Vancouver police and the Ministry of Children and Family Development (MCFD).
“We have gotten nowhere with the ministry,” said Josie August. “We do want to sit with them and we do want them held accountable. We do need things to change in regards to how the ministry treats our Indigenous kids in care.”
Noelle lived in a group home in Port Coquitlam and went missing from there numerous times. She was last reported missing on May 12, 2021. Her remains were discovered about a year later, on May 1, 2022, at a building on East Hastings Street that was rented to Van Chung Pham, who was wanted on a Canada-wide warrant.
“She was labelled as a runaway (and) it took the RCMP eight days to do a missing persons report,” said August. “There has been little to no communication with family on updates on her case. And it makes us feel as if they did not care … To them, she was just another missing Indigenous teen. There has been a lack of awareness and resources for her case.“
According to a previous Global News report, Pham was also found dead in his suite where Noelle and another woman named Elma Enan were discovered.
Amnesty International held a virtual press conference on Oct. 3, 2022, that featured family members of missing and murdered Indigenous women and girls to share their experiences a day before Sisters in Spirit Day – a day of honour and remembrance and to raise awareness.
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