WE’KOQMA’Q: It’s been over 100 days since 22-year-old Cassidy Jean Bernard’s body was found inside her We’koqma’q First Nation home on a rainy October morning, with her twin six-month old daughters present in the home at the time of the incident.
Her family just experienced an emotional milestone – January 28 would have been Cassidy’s 23 birthday, a day that was tough physically and mentally for her family.
“Everyday she’s in the back of everybody’s head, everyday, all day. You wake up in the middle of the night and you think of her, you hear a song and you think of her,” Cassidy’s cousin and three-term We’koqma’q band councillor Annie Bernard-Daisley told The Reporter in a phone interview Monday. “For her mom, dad, and siblings I can’t even imagine. On a day that she should have been around to celebrate with her babies, they had to celebrate it without her and our hearts go out to them.”
Over the Christmas holiday an idea was generated through Bernard-Daisley and Cassidy’s mother Mona as an answer to the question “what more can we do?”
Since there is not a national or provincial day of remembrance for missing and murdered Indigenous people, they decided they would take things into their own hands and change that.
Bernard-Daisley said it crossed her mind to try circulate a petition for the federal and provincial governments to have a day set aside to remember, not only Cassidy, but all the missing and murdered Indigenous women, men, and children.
“I keep saying men and children because they are victims as well.”
The response has been nothing short of phenomenal. The petition, which was started a little under two weeks ago by Mona, already features 15,826 signatures and is increasing with every refresh.
Bernard-Daisley said Inverness MLA Allan MacMaster confirmed he and the Premier’s Office want to bring the petition and forward for discussion when the legislature opens.
“The support means a lot to us, when I wrote the article back in November that we all have to start working together, this is where it all starts,” she said. “Our Indigenous, and non-Indigenous communities along with our government need to start working together – this is a step in the right direction.”
In November, four weeks after the loss of Cassidy, family, friends and community members across Cape Breton Island marched together in solidarity across the Canso Causeway. The rally came just one day after We’koqma’q First Nation announced a $100,000 reward for any information leading to the arrest and conviction of the person or people responsible for Cassidy’s death.
As RCMP wait for the results of the medical examiner’s report, they remain tight-lipped about the case and will not provide any details, including Cassidy’s name, and will only call the death “not a random act.”
“While we can’t speak to specific investigations or examinations, generally speaking, cases can range from several weeks to months due to the comprehensive nature of the work and the various tests and analysis that are involved and often completed by third parties,” Nova Scotia’s Medical Examiner’s Service spokeswoman Heather Fairbairn told The Reporter last Friday. “We do not want to speculate on how long the results will take. We remain focused on making sure we provide the family and the authorities with the information they need as quickly as possible.”
Bernard-Daisley said the petition is a way for the governments to acknowledge there is a problem and there is more that can be done to address this issue.
“For us to stand still and wait for the recommendations from the national inquiry, it just doesn’t sit still with me because how many more are going to be murdered between now and then?” she questioned. “At some point we need to start fighting for our children. I have three daughters, we have to start fighting for them, their children and so forth. There are things that can be done before that inquiry is over. I’m glad the government recognizes there is a problem, but they also have to recognize there are things that they can do to eradicate this problem.”
Bernard-Daisley encourages everyone to sign the petition at www.change.org/p/justin-trudeau-national-day-of-remembrance-on-january-28-in-memory-of-cassidy-jean-bernard-and-all-mmiw.