'It's baffling': Coquitlam RCMP face questions, criticism around lack of Amber Alert for O'Soup

Warning: Details may be disturbing to some viewers. Questions continue to circle in the tragic case of Noelle O'Soup. The Indigenous child's extended family and child protection advocates are still asking if she could have been found sooner had more action been taken by police. Sarah MacDonald has more in the third part of an investigative series into the life and death of Noelle O'Soup.

This is part three in a three-part series about the disappearance and death of B.C. teen Noelle O’Soup. For part two, click here.

Warning: Details may be disturbing to some viewers. Discretion is advised.

When a child disappears in Canada, the public is typically notified — often through an Amber Alert, which adds urgency and visibility to a situation where every second counts.

None of that was afforded to Noelle O’Soup.

“It’s baffling,” said Roslyn Chambers, a child protection lawyer who specializes in cases involving foster care and the Ministry of Children and Family Development (MCFD).

“Why was there not an Amber Alert issued for Noelle? ‘That’s a complicated answer.’ Well, maybe it’s not.”

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The answer to that question differs, depending on who you ask.

In the case of O’Soup, who was just 13 years old when she walked away from a group foster care home in Port Coquitlam, the question was directed to Coquitlam RCMP, which had jurisdiction over her missing person case.

“The Laws and Legislation require specific criteria to be met in order to issue an AMBER Alert, all of which were not met in this case ,” said Coquitlam RCMP in an emailed statement, after refusing an on-camera interview in connection to the O’Soup investigation.

“An AMBER Alert is usually intended only for the most serious, time critical abduction cases.”

“Noelle left home voluntarily,” the statement added.

It’s a narrative that O’Soup’s extended family takes issue with — and one that’s all too familiar to advocates working to raise awareness of missing and murdered Indigenous women and girls.

“It’s frustrating. It’s really frustrating, because I feel like the police could do more, and we’re doing their work,” said Lorelai Williams, who acts as a conduit between O’Soup’s extended family and the agencies tasked with investigating her disappearance and subsequent death.

“It’s devastating. It’s so heartbreaking. They’re frustrated. They’re angry. There are so many unanswered questions.”

Read more:

Noelle O’Soup’s remains overlooked by Vancouver investigators for months

Of those many lingering and unanswered questions O’Soup’s extended family is asking is: why was no AMBER Alert issued for their loved one, who was a child when she went missing?

“They said it was inappropriate and it didn’t meet the criteria of an AMBER Alert, because Noelle did not want to be found,” Olivia Louie, O’Soup’s cousin, said of her family’s discussions with police agencies.

“At the time she went missing she was 13 years old, and she was likely deceased by the time she was 14. She wanted to be found.”

Louie also cast criticism on the press release initially sent out by Coquitlam RCMP, which she said only further stigmatized a missing Indigenous child.

“They did also say that she frequented the Downtown Eastside, which was not true. She had left her home once before, and then contacted somebody to pick her up. So she wasn’t frequently coming down here,” Louie explained, gesturing to the privately-owned SRO where O’Soup’s remains were found on May 1st, after being overlooked by Vancouver police for months.

O’Soup’s remains — and those of another woman in her 30s — were ultimately found by cleaning staff more than two months after the unit’s tenant died suddenly himself. The tenant’s death is not considered suspicious.

Those of O’Soup, and the other female found dead alongside her, are now under investigation by the Vancouver Police Department’s Major Crime Section.

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Coquitlam RCMP publicly stepped up their efforts in locating O’Soup — who also went by ‘Elli’ — after her decomposed remains were discovered, in a press conference held in May.

“If anyone thinks they have met, or assisted, Elli in the last year, police are urging you to come forward with information,” said Cpl. Paige Kuz on May 18th, nearly three weeks after O’Soup’s decomposed remains were found.

They were confirmed to belong to O’Soup in June.

“Elli, your loved ones and the police are concerned for you, and are steadfast to confirm your safety and wellbeing. You are not in trouble, Elli. We need to make sure that you are okay,” Kuz said in May.

She was not okay.

“She was a child and she was failed by the system,” said Roslyn Chambers, who’s witnessed the failures and the fallout of the foster care system first-hand.

“I believe she was failed by the government in three different ways: she was failed by the government from the ’safe’ place she was allegedly in; she was failed by the police for not putting an AMBER Alert out; and she was failed by a system that appears to have a different approach to Indigenous children in general.

“There should have been an AMBER Alert that went out for Noelle. Why there wasn’t, I don’t know.”

Read more:

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The suggestion that O’Soup didn’t want to be found is especially hurtful to her extended family, many of whom live in northern British Columbia.

Her uncle, Cody Munch—who is the brother of O’Soup’s mother, who struggles with addiction issues—had been lobbying the Ministry of Children and Family Development to regain custody of O’Soup and her siblings in the months before she disappeared.

“Not wanting to be found. I wonder how they would feel if they were in our shoes? How would they feel if they were in her mother and father’s shoes?” Munch asked.

Kúkpi7 Judy Wilson of the Union of British Columbia India Chiefs spoke to Global News about O’Soup’s tragic case from the grounds of the former Kamloops Indian Residential School, where more than 200 suspected unmarked graves were discovered the same month O’Soup went missing in May of 2021.

“She was in ministry care and they didn’t even report her missing,” Wilson said.

“When a child is in care there are supposed to be a bunch of safe guards, and there are supposed to be a lot of processes around that because they’re still a minor, they’re still a child. Nothing was issued, so that’s really concerning.”

Read more:

Honouring Le Estcwicwéy̓: B.C. First Nation marks 1 year since discovery of 215 unmarked graves

As Wilson spoke at the former residential school site — which abused and institutionalized Indigenous children in Canada for decades — she was asked about parallels drawn between the residential school system and MCFD.

“There’s a direct correlation between the residential schools, where our children were removed forcefully— and the parents and grandparents threatened with jailtime or legal action if they kept their children at home — and the way our children are removed by the Ministry of Children and Family Development,” she said.

“Now, our children are still being taken, but now they’re in the system and then they’re disregarded. And then, they’re missing and murdered.”

© 2022 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.

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