Indigenous groups urge VPD to renew investigation into Chelsea Poorman’s death – BC

Two prominent Indigenous groups in British Columbia are calling on Vancouver’s police to renew their investigation into Chelsea Poorman’s death.

Poorman, a member of the Kwacatoose First Nation in Saskatchewan, was last seen on September 6, 2020 in downtown Vancouver. Her skeletal remains were found on April 22 on the grounds of an abandoned house in the upscale Shaughnessy neighborhood.

Vancouver police said her cause of death may never be determined, but there was no evidence of malicious intent.

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On Thursday, both the Union of BC Indian Chiefs (UBCIC) and the BC First Nations Justice Council issued statements condemning that conclusion and calling for a renewed investigation into how she died.

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The Justice Department said “new details” had emerged in the case, pointing to a statement from Poorman’s mother at a memorial Sunday that the coroner reported that her daughter was missing her skull and several fingers when she was discovered.

Click to play video: 'Sadness and anger at Vancouver vigil in honor of Chelsea Poorman'

Grief and anger at Vancouver vigil in honor of Chelsea Poorman

Grief and anger at Vancouver vigil in honor of Chelsea Poorman

“It is the duty of the police to thoroughly investigate a death. If the coroner tells the family that the body is not intact and there is no explanation as to why, then an investigation must be launched,” said Anita McPhee, a member of the Judiciary Council.

“It appears to us that the Vancouver Police Department has issued a hasty verdict that no malice was involved,” added council chairman Doug White QC.

“This makes me sick to my stomach because it’s that kind of disdainful police approach when it comes to Indigenous women that resulted in the Pickton investigation that revealed a disastrous realization of what Indigenous women of the Downtown Eastside have been through.”

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In its own statement, the UBCIC also cited questions about why Poorman’s body was not intact when it was found, along with mobility issues the then 24-year-old had that would have made it difficult for her to get to Shaughnessy alone.

“The VPD allege that Chelsea probably died on the property the night she disappeared or shortly afterwards. How is her death considered ‘not suspicious’ given that the VPD doesn’t know why she would have been in a locked and vacant house in the most expensive area of ​​Vancouver?” UBCIC Secretary-Treasurer Kukpi7 Judy Wilson said.

Wilson said the union wanted the VPD to apologize publicly for its “slow response” to Poorman’s missing persons report, for trauma to the family from police communications and for announcing the case closed at a press conference.

Click to play video: 'Chelsea Poorman's mother left with unanswered questions after remains discovered'

Mother Chelsea Poorman left with unanswered questions after remains were discovered

Mother Chelsea Poorman left with unanswered questions after remains were discovered

Chief Stewart Philip said the “icy pace of the investigation” and the conclusion of Poorman’s case were “symbolic” of the crisis of missing and murdered Indigenous women and girls.

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He called on the VPD to review and apply to Poorman’s case the 231 calls for justice described in the 2016 national inquiry into missing and murdered Indigenous women and girls.

“We demand that the matter be investigated further and that the VPD retract their callous, hurtful and erroneous statements,” Phillip said.

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When asked by a reporter last Friday whether the case was closed at the press conference announcing Poorman’s discovery, VPD spokesman Sgt. Steve Addison said, “This is a missing persons case and she is no longer missing.”

But in an email Thursday, VPD Const. Tania Visintin said police continue to urge anyone with information to come forward.

“The case has never been closed and the investigation remains active,” Visintin said.

In an earlier statement Sunday, the department maintained that it had taken Poorman’s case seriously from the start.

“The Vancouver Police Department began investigating Chelsea Poorman’s disappearance the day she was reported missing, and didn’t stop looking for her until she was discovered,” Visintin.

Visintin said the investigation involved senior homicide officers, as well as the Missing Persons Division and the Major Crimes Division, which “applies a number of investigative techniques.”

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Click to play video: 'Remains of Chelsea Poorman in garden of abandoned house in Shaughnessy'

Remains of Chelsea Poorman in garden of abandoned house in Shaughnessy

Remains of Chelsea Poorman in garden of abandoned house in Shaughnessy

“As researchers, we must always base our findings on facts and evidence. After a careful examination of all available facts and information, there is insufficient evidence to suggest that her death was the result of a crime,” Visintin said.

After Sunday’s memorial, Poorman’s mother said she would take her daughter home for a decent funeral, but would return to Vancouver to continue fighting for answers about what had happened to her.

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