Families of Harrison, Poorman, O’Soup call for better police communication

Relatives of Indigenous women and girls spoke alongside Amnesty International Canada and accuse police of mishandling investigations.

The families of three Indigenous women recently found dead in the Vancouver area, are accusing the Vancouver Police Department and other police agencies of negligence and miscommunication.

“On September 29th, it would have been Tatyanna’s 21st birthday,” Natasha Harrison said during the news conference on Monday, put together by Amnesty International Canada.

She says when her daughter’s body was found May. 2 on a boat in Richmond, it was first reported to a Downtown Eastside worker, and then to police.

Harrison says a missing person’s report was filed the next day, but the VPD failed to make the connection between the body in Richmond and her missing daughter.

“The second we have someone who is vulnerable and at risk, law enforcement seems to put them on the back burner and pick and choose which cases they are going to put on a priority,” she said.

Alongside relatives of Chelsea Poorman, and Noelle O’Soup, Harrison asked police departments to better communicate across jurisdictions and with other government agencies.

All three were found dead this past year in Metro Vancouver, and their families say they’re dissatisfied with the police response.

“There needs to be an open network where law enforcement, [the BC Ministry of Children and Family Development], hospitals, psych wards, anything like that, have open communication the second a missing person [report] is filed, especially when it’s a missing person that’s vulnerable and at risk,” Harrison said.

It took three months for her daughter’s body to be identified after it was initially discovered, and Harrison says she spent that time searching for answers in the Downtown Eastside, trying to find out if Tatyanna was still alive.

“I would like to see when a missing person [report] is filed, it is open to all jurisdictions, and it’s not singled out to Surrey handling the case, or Richmond handling the case, and missing all the evidence they have in Vancouver,” Harrison added, saying she ran into cross-jurisdictional issues while searching for Tatyanna.

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As part of this story, CityNews contacted a number of police agencies. The BC RCMP responded, saying in a statement:

“We have heard the families’ concerns and remain committed to determining what happened in each of their loved ones’ cases. It is important to acknowledge the commitment and courage of so many victim’s families to continue to seek justice for their loved ones. The RCMP is committed to improving relationships with Indigenous communities, supporting survivors and families, and ensuring that investigations are robust, professional and result in justice for the victims and their families. Violence against Indigenous women, girls, Two Spirit and LGBTQQIA+ people in Canada is an ongoing national tragedy. We will continue to work with victim’s families, various community groups, governments and other stakeholders to address the concerns raised.”

The families spoke out ahead of annual October 4th Sisters in Spirit vigils, which are held across the country to honour the memories of missing and murdered Indigenous women, girls, and Two Spirit people.

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