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Cowichan Tribes urges community to stay safe and speak up

“Too many of our community members have experienced the loss of a family member at a young age”
Lydia Hwitsum, Chief of Cowichan Tribes, said community safety is a top priority for her and her government, following the death of a 15-year-old girl connected to the First Nation on May 15, 2023. (B.C. government photo)

WARNING: This story includes details that some may find distressing.

Cowichan Tribes has been actively supporting its community members and is urging the community to speak up in the wake of the suspicious death of a teenaged girl last week, according to a press release from the First Nation.

“The safety and well-being of Quw’utsun Mustimuhw (Cowichan people) and vulnerable populations in our region is a top priority for me and our entire council,” said Chief Lydia Hwitsum in the release, issued May 25, following the death of the 15-year-old on May 15.

“Too many of our community members have experienced the unspeakable loss of a family member at a young age. We need to work together community-wide to combat crime and demand safety by reporting any and all suspicious activities to the RCMP,” Hwitsum added.

While North Cowichan/Duncan RCMP told the Cowichan Valley Citizen originally they believe there was no criminality in the teen’s death, they have since confirmed they are investigating the circumstances surrounding the hours leading up to her death.

The Citizen has chosen not to share the identity of the teen, but has reached out to family members of the teen for comment.

Chief Hwitsum announced Cowichan Tribes has been in contact with the RCMP regarding the tragedy and the Band is encouraging any and all witnesses and/or those with information about the circumstances leading to the young woman’s death to call the police at 250-748-5522 or report it online at

“We are asking our entire community to come together to support justice for this family,” Hwitsum said. “Active reporting is an important way our citizens can help law enforcement in the work they are doing.”

Inspector Chris Bear, officer in charge of the North Cowichan/Duncan RCMP said police are grateful to those who have provided information to advance the investigation thus far.

“We also understand that this is a very emotional and difficult time for those affected by this tragedy,” Bear said. “While police can’t share further details to safeguard the integrity of this investigation, investigators are also aware of rumours and speculations circulating online about the possible cause of death. Police would like to remind the public to be prudent to appropriately source their information.”

Community safety has been a priority for Cowichan Tribes for some time. The press release noted that On May 5, the First Nation co-hosted a walk in partnership with Tsow Tun Le Lum Society in honour of the National Day of Awareness for Murdered and Missing Indigenous Women and Girls. Hundreds of supporters attended.

“This issue affects First Nations across the country and earlier this month a motion was passed unanimously in the House of Commons calling the deaths and disappearances of Indigenous women a national emergency and stating funding is needed for an alert system,” said the release.

Meanwhile, Cowichan Tribes meets regularly with local RCMP to discuss community safety. The second town hall meeting of the year is scheduled for June 29 at the Si’em Lelum Dining Hall at 6 p.m.

About the Author: Cowichan Valley Citizen Staff

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