'So important to show up and support the family': Vigil planned for Chelsea Poorman

Members of Vancouver’s Indigenous community are grieving the loss of Chelsea Poorman, a young woman who was missing for more than a year and a half before her remains were found.

“You know, there was always this hope that we would find her,” said Cuauhtli, while lighting candles and placing flowers at a small memorial setup outside the vacant home where Poorman’s skeletal remains were discovered late last month.

Cuauhtli is part Butterflies in Spirit, a dance group made up of family members of murdered and missing Indigenous women. Although no one in the group knew Chelsea personally, they are offering support to Poorman’s mother and planning a ceremony Sunday to honour Chelsea’s life.

“It’s so important to show up and support the family because a lot of these cases get thrown under the rug,” said Lorelei Williams, another member of the group.

The candlelight vigil is slated for Sunday at noon at 1536 West 36th Ave.

Poorman was reported missing nearly two years ago, after vanishing without a trace. A member of the Kawacatoose First Nation in Saskatchewan, the 24-year-old had recently moved to Vancouver when she went missing in September of 2020. 

Her skeleton was discovered April 22 by contractors working on a vacant home which neighbours tell CTV News often attracted squatters. It’s unclear how Chelsea ended up on the property or how she died, yet the Vancouver Police Department has said Poorman’s death is not suspicious.

“A major fail with the VPD, a major, major fail,” said Michael Kiernan, Chelsea’s father who’s been critical of the police throughout the investigation.

“It’s just heartbreaking. It’s heartbreaking for our people, our community,” said Diana Day, lead matriarch of the Pacific Association of First Nations Women.

Day supports the family’s criticism of how police handled the case, calling the mistreatment of Indigenous women systemic.

“It seems to be the case with our women, our people that we don’t get the respect and the protection that we need from the police< and so this is just another example of that.”

VPD spokesperson Sgt. Steve Addison defended how the investigation was handled.

“We worked as hard as we could,” he said Friday at a news conference following the announcement that Poorman had been found dead.

“Missing persons, the major crimes section is consistently reviewing tips, reviewing old leads, interviewing witnesses, looking for clues up until the day she was discovered, in an attempt to locate her and bring her home.”

Meanwhile a separate memorial has been set up at Chelsea Poorman’s mural located on Carrall St. in the Downtown Eastside.

"Somebody still knows something," is spray-painted below the update saying Poorman has passed on.

Rest in Peace - Chelsea Poorman
Smokey Devil updated the wall upon hearing today's sad news. pic.twitter.com/elFrDioa0p

— Trey Helten (@ashtrey5) May 7, 2022