Sheila Poorman has been searching for her 25-year-old daughter Chelsea for nine months now.
The Vancouver Island woman says she won’t give up the search for her daughter, from Kawacatoose First Nation in Saskatchewan, who vanished in September 2020 while visiting her sister in Vancouver.
Chelsea and Paige Kiernan met a third person and went for dinner, Poorman said. She texted her mother at around midnight and then left the friend’s apartment without saying anything and has been missing since that night.
“I’m not giving up hope. I know she’s still out there. That’s why I am still posting pictures hoping someone, while doing their regular activities, has answers about my daughter,” Poorman said.
It was held in honour of National Awareness for Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls, uplifting the voices and stories of MMIWG families on Turtle Island in Lake Erie.
For mothers Poorman and Brenda DeBois, the national day has become a day of mourning and grief. For Poorman, it’s a day of reminder her daughter is still missing, and for DeBois, it’s a reminder that her daughter will never return and was gone too soon.
Both mothers attended the webinar to spread awareness that the MMIWG crisis is not gone away, and it’s a growing problem that has long-term effects on family and community members.
Poorman described her daughter as kind and “would do anything to help someone out.”
To date, the family has raised $10,000 as a reward for any information that leads to the young woman’s whereabouts. They held a vigil in Victory Square Park and attendees wore red to support the family and honour all missing and murdered Indigenous women and girls.
She said her daughter, left vulnerable after a 2014 car accident left her with a brace on her left leg and a lifted shoe on her right foot, enjoyed writing songs and loved animals.
“She is strong-willed, and I know she is fighting. It’s not like her not to call us for her birthday (Oct.12), so that’s when I began to worry,” Poorman said.
“I’m not giving up hope,” she said. “I know she’s still out there.
“That’s why I am still posting pictures hoping someone while doing their regular activities, has answers about my daughter,” Poorman said.
A report released by the RCMP in 2014 said while Indigenous women represent 4.3 per cent of Canada’s female population, they represent 16 per cent of female homicide victims and 11 per cent of missing person cases involving women.
The National Inquiry into Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls issued its final report in 2019, calling violence against Indigenous women a “national genocide” and “deliberate race and gender-based genocide.”
In the virtual webinar, Poorman said she hoped Vancouver police would act quickly in helping find her missing daughter. She was baffled that police waited 10 days before releasing Chelsea’s press release on Sept 18, 2020.
“The homicide unit was keener to help because they seemed to have more resources, but it’s been eight months,” Poorman said.
DuBois continues to keep her daughter in the public eye and has dedicated herself to helping others find answers about their missing loved ones.
She said she learned about her daughter’s death through an online video that circulated globally on all social media platforms. Her daughter, 19-year old Serena McKay, a resident of Pine Creek First Nation in Manitoba, was fatally beaten by two female classmates while others recorded it.
Her body was found two days later on SagKeeng First Nation, also in Manitoba, on April 23, 2017. Two teens were later convicted of second-degree murder under the Youth Criminal Justice Act.
“After moving to Manitoba, Serena just wanted to make her friends, but she was having a hard time,” DuBois said. “Her classmates would make fun of her and call her names. She started to feel insecure about herself.”
DuBois said despite the bullying, McKay continued her quest to get her high school diploma.
“She wanted a different life for herself. I grew up in residential school, and I know it wasn’t easy for her to watch me sometimes. She wanted to help others,” DuBois said.
Sagkeeng Anicinabe High School granted McKay a posthumous diploma in June 2017 to her family and create a scholarship in her name.
“When Serena was alive, she used to say that when she would die, nobody will remember her,” DuBois said. ” Everyone knows her story, and people have created pages in honour of her. Nobody will ever forget my daughter.
“She didn’t deserve to die the way she did,” she said.