A vigil was held Tuesday in downtown Vancouver’s Eastside for a Native American girl whose body was found there a year after she went missing.
Noelle O’Soup was one of two people whose remains were found in a room in The Heatley, a one-bedroom home on May 1, Vancouver police have confirmed. The “tragic end” of the search was announced by the department seven weeks later, after the body was identified.
A 14-year-old who was a member of the Key First Nation in Saskatchewan. The tape says O’Soup was in government care when she went missing in May 2021.
Vigil organizer Lorelei Williams, who is with the group Butterflies in Spirit, said O’Soup’s death isn’t just a tragedy for those who knew and loved her — it’s a painful and grim reminder of an ongoing national crisis. .
“Our Indigenous women and girls are in a state of emergency. Our Indigenous women and girls need to be protected. There is a high percentage of Indigenous women and girls missing and murdered. This should not be happening,” she told CTV News.
“She was just a baby,” she said of O’Soup.
According to the Assembly of First Natiions, 11 percent of missing women are Indigenous, despite the fact that Indigenous people make up only about 4.3 percent of Canada’s population. According to the AFN, the current data is an underestimation of the magnitude of the problem.
The RCMP said Indigenous women account for 10 percent of cases where a woman is missing for at least 30 days, a statistic based on a 2015 report. Of those women, many were identified as missing “due to ‘unknown’ circumstances or suspected of being was of a crime.”
Shortly after announcing that the search for O’Soup had come to a tragic end, the Vancouver Police Department said that crime has not been ruled out in this case.
“Everything is on the table at the moment,” said spokesman Const. Tania Visintin said at a press conference last week.
“We are investigating all possibilities as to the cause of this death – or deaths, I should say.”
NATIVE LEADERS QUESTIONS ANSWERS
The fact that the teen’s body went unidentified for nearly two months is hard for Key First Nation members to take.
“It’s always very hard and upsetting to lose a young member of our community,” band councilor Solomon Reece told CTV News last week.
“It’s incredibly important to the family and our community that we have the answers to understand what happened, not just the circumstances of her death, but the circumstances that led to her death.”
Kukpi7 Judy Wilson of the Union of BC Indian Chiefs echoes those comments.
“The band and all loved ones deserve those answers, and they deserve the right access to the information, the right reporting and to know if this was foul play or an overdose,” Wilson said. “It cannot be downplayed.”
Both Wilson and Reece believe Noelle O’Soup’s system has failed, as if it has many missing and murdered Native women and girls.
“Why do these children die in care? And they are not respected, they are not highly regarded. All children should be held in high esteem and there should be no tragedies happening to the children in shelters,” Wilson said.
Reece demands a full investigation and cooperation from all authorities involved.
“But we also need system change,” he said. “How many children are still missing, and how many do we have to lose before significant changes are made at the federal and state levels?”
They fear that if those changes don’t happen, more vulnerable girls like Noelle O’Soup will die.