PORT HASTINGS: Four weeks after the loss of a local Indigenous woman, family, friends and community members across Cape Breton Island marched together in solidarity across the Canso Causeway last Wednesday.
More than 400 demonstrators gathered on the Cape Breton side of the causeway, including members from all five First Nation communities being bused in as they marched to the beat of the drum, waving flags and memorial posters, many wearing red to call attention on missing and murdered Indigenous women.
The body of 22-year-old Cassidy Bernard was found inside her We’koqma’q First Nation home on the morning of October 24. Cassidy’s twin six-month-old infant daughters were present in the home at the time of the incident but were not harmed.
Mona Bernard, Cassidy’s mother said her daughter was a beautiful, young mother and it was just so sad the way her life ended.
“She had her life taken from her – she was so full of life, she lived everyday to the fullest, and [there] was nothing more pleasing to her than being a mother of identical twins.”
As the 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 “suspicious.”
We’koqma’q First Nation Chief Rod Googoo said they want to keep the light shining on missing and murdered Indigenous women because it’s happening on a daily basis.
“There’s been a lot of discussion, but really people feel helpless,” he told reporters following the red dress rally. “And this is one way of our people [to] feel that they can do something too, by walking in something like this.”
Annie Bernard-Daisley, a three-term We’koqma’q First Nation band councillor and cousin of Cassidy said the support from the red dress protest has been tremendous and is truly an eye-opener.
“It’s a day that should be marked in history really because we’re all working together, we’re all uniting, we’re all standing in solidarity that we can’t take this anymore,” she said. “We’re demanding justice, we’re no longer asking for it now.”
Bernard-Daisley said the statistics are unbelievable all across Canada and it’s gone on far too long, and she worries after the Inquiry is complete and recommendations are made, still no action will be taken.
“Today, we’re taking action, we have to demand action, and we have to demand change because our families are grieving,” she said. “Our families are left with no answers, our families are left with just memories of somebody and that’s not fair to us as Indigenous people.”
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.
Googoo said in each and every case of missing and murdered Indigenous women, someone knows something and the band council felt that as a leadership within their community they have to step up and show they’re willing to do whatever it takes to solve this case.
“We’re sort of reaching out to whoever might have some information, to come forward and give that to the authorities,” he said. “Because maybe that one little piece of information is all they need to put closure on this case and bring some kind of justice to the family and that young child that was taken away from us.”
Lorraine Whitman, president of Nova Scotia Native Women’s Association said they’re not going to be silent anymore and they’re not going to live in fear.
“The only way we can do this is if we have solidarity for all, this is for all women, all men, of all races, so please stop the violence, because we’re not going to be silent anymore,” she said. “It’s important because it’s a peaceful event, it’s a march – we have the voice of our drum, we have our women here, and everyone here is for the same reason, for the violence to stop.”
The We’koqma’q community is like a big family, and if anything happens to one of their women, it affects them all. The whole community is still in shock, they’re still grieving and they’re still looking for answers. This is something Googoo said won’t get better until they have closure and the responsible person or people are brought to justice.
“The conditions are not that good, it’s kind of cold. But when you put things into perspective, that young child that was stolen from us, she’ll never have the luxury of feeling this cold, or the dampness or the rain, she’ll never feel that again ever, but we will,” he said. “So it’s really important to show our support, not only for the family, but for every missing and murdered woman all across Canada, regardless of colour.”