More information is coming to light about a man found dead in a rooming house in Vancouver’s Downtown Eastside, where the bodies of missing teen Noelle O’Soup, who was 13 when she disappeared in 2021, and another woman were found months later.
Less than two years before Van Chung Pham’s body was found in February, he was released from immigration custody, even though authorities considered him a danger to the public.
In May, the bodies of 14 year-old O’Soup and another woman police have not publicly identified were found in the same room.
‘YOU GIVE DRUGS TO VULNERABLE WOMEN’
CTV has reviewed audio of an Immigration and Refugee Board detention review in October 2020, where Pham was ordered released.
During the proceedings, IRB member Michael MacPhalen told Pham he was “satisfied that you are a long-term drug addict and that you use meth and fentanyl”.
“I’m also satisfied that you sell drugs to people, and that you give drugs to vulnerable women so that they will have sex with you. One woman died of an overdose in your room,” MacPhalen said, and added that incident occurred at the Canada Hotel in June of 2019.
“I do find that you pose a danger to the public. The only reason I’m releasing you is I do not believe that there is any possibility that (Canada Border Services Agency) will be able to get a travellers document for you and return you to Vietnam.”
The hearing was told the CBSA applied to the Vietnamese embassy for a travel document in 2019, but there had been no real progress.
“If I was to continue your detention, it might last for years,” MacPhalen said. “Because right now, there is no possibility of removal.
Logan Sherwood, who represented CBSA at the hearing, said a removal officer had spoken with Pham’s sister, who said her parents did not want to be involved in any way with his repatriation to Vietnam.
“The minister has made extensive and continued efforts to try and obtain a travel document for Mr. Pham,” he said. “We’ve provided the Vietnamese authority with all the information we have pertaining to Mr.Pham, his history and his family in Vietnam, but they still refuse to issue a travel document”
Sherwood also spoke about the public safety concerns.
“Members of this division have found Mr. Pham poses a danger to the public because he sells dangerous drugs to vulnerable people in the Downtown Eastside,” he said. “And unfortunately one of the individuals died after having overdosed in Mr Pham’s room at his former residence.”
Sherwood said Pham had violated three release orders from the immigration division, “including two in the last couple of months”. He described how Pham had been released most recently on July 28 of that year with a number of conditions, and was admitted to a recovery house. Sherwood said he then left without permission in early October and a warrant was issued for his arrest.
Three days later, he returned to the recovery home displaying signs of being under the influence of drugs, and left when he was told about the warrant. On Oct. 10, Pham was arrested after police were called to a home in Vancouver.
“The residents reported Mr. Pham had been trying to get into their house by banging on the doors and windows and demanding to be let in,” Sherwood said. “When police arrived they found Mr. Pham to be extremely intoxicated.”
Pham was ordered released by the IRB on a promise to appear, with a requirement to let the CBSA know where he would be living and report any change in address. He was also told to “fully cooperate” with respect to obtaining travel documents.
In an emailed statement to CTV, the IRB said “Canadian law regards detention as an exceptional measure.”
“IRB members are independent decision-makers who determine the cases before them on their individual merits,” the board said. “Members are also required to consider the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms when determining whether or not detention is warranted, particularly in circumstances such as when detention is lengthy or where the prospect of removal has become remote.”
‘THEY FAILED HER’
Speaking from Kamloops, O’Soup’s aunt Josie August said the teen’s family is angered by the news.
“I just feel like all of these levels of government and agencies, they failed her,” she said. “A 13 year-old girl — They failed her.”
August said the family wants accountability from government and police agencies with connections to the case, including the Ministry of Children and Family Development.
“She was in their care in their group home…why did she run away from this group home? Why was she turning to the streets when she’s in their care?” August asked.
“We need answers and we need change, so we don’t have any more Noelle O’Soup’s. This is such a tragic ending to a 13 year-old girl’s life. She should be doing teenager things: hanging out with friends, going to the mall. Not found deceased in a 46-year-old man’s apartment.”
Vancouver police have said Pham was wanted Canada-wide at the time of his death, for sex-related offences they said had occurred in the same suite where he, O’Soup, and the other woman were ultimately found dead.
The BC Prosecution Service confirmed four charges were approved against Pham in February, including sexual assault and administering a drug. Those charges have now been abated following his death.