Supporters and family members of Chelsea Poorman rallied in Vancouver on Saturday, vowing to keep up the pressure for answers about her death.
Poorman, a 24-year-old member of the Kwacatoose First Nation in Saskatchewan, was last seen on Sept. 6, 2020, in downtown Vancouver. Her remains were found 17 months later behind a vacant home in the upscale Shaughnessy neighbourhood.
“Right now, as it sits, our main focus is to get answers to what exactly happened to Chelsea. Like I said before, she didn’t just come here to lay down and die,” her mother Sheila said at a gathering outside the house where she was found.
Vancouver police have said Poorman’s cause of death may never be known because of how much her remains had decomposed by the time the were found. However, police say they found no evidence of foul play.
Poorman’s mother says she was told by the coroner that part of her daughter’s cranium and some of her fingers were missing when she was found.
“She was covered up with a blanket. Did an animal go under that blanket and take the part and then put the blanket back? That doesn’t seem right,” she said.
“Somebody obviously brought her here, somebody knew this place was empty.”
Sheila said police have since committed to searching a nearby park with a cadaver dog to see if they can find more of her daughter’s remains.
Along with the questions about how her daughter died and why it took so long for her remains to be found, Sheila remains focused on the Vancouver police response, which she said lacked urgency.
She said it took investigators 10 days to issue a missing persons bulletin for her daughter.
“For the police not to take this serious was the worst thing I had to go though, losing my daughter and them not taking me serious,” she said.
“I cried to them, I told them she was vulnerable. And they didn’t take me serious. One of the questions they did ask was what’s her nationality. They asked if she was Indigenous, and I said yes she is. I didn’t know what’s the point in that.”
Outside the vacant home, supporters made speeches and performed ceremony for Poorman.
Many carried red dresses, a symbol representing missing and murdered Indigenous women, or painted red hand prints across their mouths.
“We’re going to walk together to support this dear mother,” said Victoria Good, a member of the Nisga’a Nation. “Women have been taken from us — killed, murdered raped — such as this young lady, which is heartbreaking. It needs to stop, the awareness needs to be worldwide.”
Supporters then led a march down Granville Street to Granville and Davie, where Poorman was last seen.
While Vancouver police appeared to initially suggest Poorman’s case was closed, investigators have since said the file remains open and active.
Vancouver police have maintained that they took the case seriously from the beginning, and assigned significant resources including senior investigators from the homicide and major crimes units.
Sheila said police have since received a few tips, but nothing actionable. She urged anyone who has photos from the Granville Entertainment District taken on the day her daughter disappeared to go back and review them to see if Chelsea appears in the background.
“I am glad people are still calling and trying to help. Any little thing will help, I know that. Even if you think you saw her that night, just let us know,” she said.
In the meantime, Sheila Poorman is vowing to keep up pressure for answers in her daughter’s disappearance, and she had a direct message for anyone who may have accompanied Chelsea to the house where she was found.
“I ask you to come forward so we the family can have closure to what happened to Chelsea. Just please come forward. You can do it anonymously, you can reach out to me,” she said.
“I’m not going to stop fighting until I get answers to what happened behind this house, what happened with Chelsea. I want to change our relationship with the Vancouver City Police and First Nations,” she added.
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