Noelle "Elli" O'Soup, an Indigenous girl reported missing from her Port Coquitlam, B.C. home over a year ago, died in early May in a Vancouver apartment, authorities say. She was 14 years old.
Noelle, a member of Key First Nation in Saskatchewan, was one of two people found dead in an apartment at the corner of Heatley Avenue and Hastings Street on May 1, in the city's Strathcona neighbourhood, Vancouver police said in a statement. Police said their cause of death is unknown.
"This has become a familiar tragedy experienced by our families and communities," said Coun. Solomon Reece of Key First Nation in a written statement.
"We need action and systemic change from all levels of government to safeguard our children and protect the vulnerable members of our community. Her death affects us all."
Kukpi7 Judy Wilson, secretary-treasurer of the Union of B.C. Indian Chiefs, said the long period of time Noelle was missing and the weeks-long delay from her death to her family being notified raises questions about how much of a priority her life was.
"The missing and murdered Indigenous women and girls and Two Spirit always get dismissed, denied and delayed," Wilson said. "And unfortunately, this is another tragic end to that.
"There's too many stats and too many instances, and it's continuing and it needs to stop."
Police outline search efforts
Coquitlam RCMP said Noelle originally left her Port Coquitlam home, just east of Vancouver, on the evening of May 12, 2021 "without permission."
Mounties said they actively searched for her and followed up on every tip received. They are now assisting Vancouver police and the coroners service as they investigate Noelle's death.
"The Coquitlam RCMP offer their deepest condolences to the family and friends and thank the public and media for their assistance with the investigation," a statement from Mounties read.
The Vancouver Police Department said until earlier this week, when the coroner identified the body, it was not known that Noelle was one of the two people who died in early May. The family was notified Wednesday, after the identification was made.
'Committed to finding answers,' say police
The coroner said three deaths in all are being looked into at the apartment building. In addition to the early May deaths, a man in his early 40s died in the same apartment Feb. 23.
The coroners service would provide no further details on any of the deaths, citing the ongoing investigations.
Vancouver police said its major crimes section — which includes the homicide unit, robbery, assault and arson unit and missing persons unit — is investigating Noelle's death.
"Noelle's death will generate many questions in the community, and we are committed to finding answers," a Vancouver police spokesperson wrote in an email.
"If, during the course of this investigation, we determine there is a risk to public safety, we will immediately notify the public."
Wilson says she hopes investigations lead to answers for Noelle's family but also says there needs to be reform of Canada's colonial systems so Indigenous children like Noelle don't fall through the cracks.
"We really need to deal with all of these different ... policies from the Doctrine of Discovery and also in the U.N. Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous People to have justice," Wilson said.
"That's what our people are looking for: justice."