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Saik’uz First Nation calls for help after 2 people disappear in matter of months

First Nations leaders are calling on the RCMP, the media and the public to do more to help find two people who have gone missing from the Saikuse First Nation over the past year.

28-year-old Jay Preston Raphael and 29-year-old Chelsea Amanda Kwa (Heron) were last seen at a country residence located in B.C. about 85 km west of Prince George in February and October, respectively.

In both cases, family and friends say their disappearances from the community, which numbers about 400 reservists, are out of character and cause for concern.

“We are calling for more volunteers and resources to help increase the search,” Saikooz First Nation Chief Priscilla Muller and the Highway of Tears advocacy group said in a joint statement Friday.

A woman speaks in the gymnasium.
Chief Priscilla Mueller of the Saik’uz First Nation speaks at a community gathering, calling for more to be done to find Jay Preston Raphael and Chelsea Amanda Coo (Heron). (Submitted by Carrier Sekani Family Services)

The organization was formed in 2006 in response to a series of incidents of women and girls, many of them Indigenous, either missing or killed along Highway 16 between Prince George and Prince Rupert. In total, more than 40 women and girls have been linked to disappearances along 700 kilometers of highway.

The formation of the governing body was one 33 recommendations which came in 2006 Highway of Tears Symposium Recommendations Reportwhich called for various measures to improve security in the area.

But Mary Teague, head of the governing body, says the number of missing people shows more needs to be done.

“There seems to be little change in response,” he said. “We must do better as a community to come together and find our missing loved ones.

“Support your community, support the families and please help bring Jay and Chelsea home.”

Being out of touch is unusual

Police have issued missing persons alerts for both Rafael and Qu and are appealing to the public for information.

According to the RCMP In Vanderhoof, about 15 kilometers northeast of Saikuse, Raphael was last seen leaving the Saikuse residence on February 26 and has not been reported since. He is described as five feet nine inches and 143 pounds with black hair and brown eyes. Friends and family said it was unusual for him to socialize.

Jay Preston Raphael's missing poster
RCMP have issued missing persons alerts for both Jay Preston Raphael and Chelsea Amanda Kuo and are appealing to the public for information. (Submitted by Saik’uz First Nation)

Similarly, Quo is believed to have left her father’s home in the early hours of October 11 and never returned.

According to her aunt, Tamara DeLong, her father “thought she was going out for a smoke and that she would be right back.”

Quaw is approximately five feet 10 inches tall, weighs 120 pounds, with brown hair and brown eyes.

Both cases are still listed as missing persons, said BC RCMP Staff Sgt. Chris Clark, based in Surrey and speaking on behalf of the state force, in a written statement to CBC News. If any evidence emerges that indicates the need for a criminal investigation, the focus will shift to “finding those responsible without delay.”

“At this time, both Chelsea and Jay are continuing to search for the missing persons with the ultimate goal of finding them safely,” he said.

Clark also said that “while Indigenous people have historically been overrepresented among missing persons,” the RCMP is dedicated to finding people who go missing “regardless of their race or gender,” and the Vanderhoof squad “continually involves external partners and follows up on everyone “. investigative leads while keeping the family informed of the search.”

Anyone with information is asked to contact Vanderhoof RCMP at 250-567-2222 or Crime Stoppers at 1-800-222-8477 (TIPS).

“Chelsea likes a lot”

In an interview with CBC News, Kuo’s mother described her daughter as an “independent, educated and hardworking woman. He is loving and caring.”

He likes “Chelsea” a lot,” said Pam Heron.

She said her daughter usually answers within hours of receiving a phone call or text, so not hearing from her for weeks is really concerning.

A young woman with brown hair and brown eyes.
Chelsea Amanda Quo is believed to have left her father’s home on the Saikooz First Nation in the early morning hours of October 11 and never returned. (Submitted by Saik’uz First Nation)

Heron is concerned that her daughter has been stereotyped as a troubled Indigenous girl and says she doesn’t think the RCMP handled her disappearance with enough urgency when she was first reported missing.

“He worked hard. He worked in a mill, he was very educated,” Heron said.

A community gathering was held

Speaking A community gathering Muller, held Friday afternoon, said he felt the local RCMP detachment did everything they could. However, the chief and council are asking for additional resources from other districts as well as the province.

Deputy Chief Kayla Mitchell of the neighboring Witset First Nation also said more needs to be done.

“Our lost loved ones are not getting the media coverage or justice support they deserve,” Mitchell said in a statement of support released Friday.

Charity West, a member of the Kwadacha Nation, who recently toured Canada to raise awareness about missing and murdered Indigenous women, girls and men, said she often hears the same sentiment from Indigenous people across the country.

“Police agencies are failing us,” West said. “We’re being failed, the media is failing us, they’re not giving us the coverage we need.”

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