Leaders of a small Saskatchewan First Nation want answers after a teenager who had been missing for nearly a year was found dead in an apartment in Vancouver’s Downtown Eastside.
Fourteen-year-old Noelle O’Soup lived in Port Coquitlam, BC, but she originally came from Key First Nation with 1,500 members in southern Saskatchewan.
“Noelle was a young member of our community,” said Key First Nations bandleader Solomon Reece.
“As far as I understand, she was in (BC Ministry of Children and Family Development) care and jumped from home to home, which unfortunately is a reality for many of not only children in our society, but children in the original society in a broad sense” , Reece added.
O’Soup disappeared from her home in Port Coquitlam on May 21, 2021.
“I know our current boss, who was a councilor at the time, was put in a task force with the Vancouver police to find out where she was,” said Reece, who added that the band also offered a reward. of $ 10,000 for Noelle’s safe return.
“Unfortunately, it just wasn’t enough to find her.”
Nearly a year after she disappeared, two bodies were found inside an apartment on Heatley Street in Downtown Eastside on May 1st. One of the bodies was identified as O’Soup earlier this week, according to Vancouver police.
“Earlier this week, we received confirmation from the BC Coroners Service that Noelles (corpse) was one of the two people discovered on May 1,” said Vancouver police spokesman Sgt. Steve Addison in an email Thursday.
“Until that time, her identity had been unknown.”
The fact that the teenager’s body remained unidentified for nearly two months is hard for Key First Nation members to take.
“It’s always very hard and very shocking to lose a young member of our community,” Reece said. “It was a very hard day for us yesterday and a very hard morning for us too as we begin to communicate with our members and members of her family.”
The causes of Noelle’s death and the person she was found with are still unknown. Police say the body of a man in his 40s was found in the same apartment in late February, and crime is not ruled out.
“It is incredibly important for the family and our community that we have the answers to understand what happened, not only the circumstances surrounding her death, but the circumstances that led to her death,” Reece said.
Kukpi7 Judy Wilson with the Union of BC Indian Chiefs repeats these comments.
“The band and all the loved ones deserve these answers, and they deserve the right access to the information, the proper reporting, and knowing that if this was ugly play, or it was an overdose,” Wilson said. “It can not be trivialized.”
Both Wilson and Reece believe the system failed Noelle O’Soup, just as it has many missing and murdered native women and girls.
“Why do these children die in foster care? And they are not respected, they are not held high. All children should be held high and there should be no tragedies for the children in foster care,” Wilson said.
Reece requires a complete investigation and cooperation from all agencies involved.
“But we also need systemic change,” he said. “How many more children will have to disappear and how many more will we have to lose before significant changes take place at both the federal and provincial levels?”
They fear that if these changes do not happen, more vulnerable girls like Noelle O’Soup will end up dying.