The 24-year-old woman’s cause of death is undetermined and several Indigenous organizations are calling for full investigations into cases of disappearances and deaths of Indigenous women.

Chelsea Poorman grew up in Regina, her family being from the Kawacatoose First Nation in Saskatchewan. She had two sisters. Chelsea Poorman dreamed of being a makeup artist, fashion designer, or musician and was known for bringing hot coffee to people living on the streets when temperatures in Regina dipped.

On Tuesday, the Federation of Sovereign Indigenous Nations, which represents 74 First Nations in Saskatchewan, called on Vancouver police to fully investigate his death and apologize to his family.

Chelsea Poorman had been missing since September 2020.

Photo: Provided by Sheila Poorman

Chef Bobby Cameron said: Chelsea’s family deserve to know the truth about what happened to their daughter and sister. It is our inherent and treaty right to be protected by police across Canada, and they have failed.

Sheila Poorman, Chelsea’s mother, believes police failed to deal with her daughter’s disappearance with the urgency that was needed, even after warning them that her daughter had a physical disability and brain damage resulting from a car accident in 2014.

Sheila Poorman filed a missing persons report with Vancouver police on September 7, 2020, and became concerned that a public notice of missing was issued only 10 days later.

It just seemed [que la police] didn’t care. I felt like Chelsea didn’t matter to anyone. »

A quote from Sheila Poorman, mother of Chelsea Poorman

End of investigation

Although her daughter’s body was found on April 22, Sheila Poorman was not notified by police until two weeks later. She says that after telling reporters the case was closed, the police told her privately that they would continue their investigation.

They apologized behind closed doors. It was just hard to hear the words they were saying in the media about the end of the case. […] you know it’s not suspicious and there’s no foul playshe said.

Sheila Poorman sticks a wanted poster protected by a transparent plastic envelope on a pole on Granville Street in downtown Vancouver.

Sheila Poorman posting wanted posters all over Vancouver. (archives)

Photo: Radio-Canada / Ken Leedham

For the Union of British Columbia Native Chiefs (UBCIC), the abrupt halt to the Vancouver police investigation is emblematic of the absolute crisis of missing and murdered Indigenous women and girls.

The Vancouver police version is that Chelsea Poorman likely died the night she disappeared on or near the property where she was found. Sheila Poorman said that at the time of the discovery, her daughter had lost several fingers and part of her skull, details which were not disclosed by the police.

Chelsea Poorman’s cell phone was not found with her body and was traced to Victory Square in downtown Vancouver. The neighborhood where the young woman was found, located about 6 km from the city center and the place where she was last seen, is among one of the richest in Canada.

Insufficient evidence

Vancouver police say the investigation into the death and disappearance of Chelsea Poorman is detailed and intricatebut there was no not enough evidence to suggest his death was the result of a crime.

Sergeant Steve Addison, media liaison for Vancouver police, told a news conference that the cause of his death would likely never be known.

In a statement on Thursday, the British Columbia First Nations Justice Council said angry. “There are more unanswered questions than answered surrounding the circumstances of his death due to the lack of a full investigation by the Vancouver Police Department,” the statement read.

Annita McPhee, Board Member, Pays Tribute to Investigative Journalists Without Whom the stories of these women would not be revealed and adds that it is the duty of law enforcement to fully investigate a death, if the coroner expresses to the family that the body is not intact and there is no explanation why, then an inquest must be conducted.

Given the history of [l’Enquête nationale sur les femmes et les filles autochtones disparues et assassinées] in Canada, we must treat the disappearance and death of all Indigenous women and girls as suspicious until a full investigation decides otherwise. »

A quote from First Nations Justice Council of British Columbia

For Board Chairman Doug White to conclude that Chelsea Poorman’s death is not suspicious is hasty. He denounces a dismissive police approach with regard to Aboriginal women, already present around the investigation of serial killer Robert Pickton.

With information from Michelle Ghoussoub

Indigenous spaces

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