Protest in memory of Cassidy Bernard shuts down Canso Causeway
Community members say Bernard, 22, was killed while her twin baby girls were in the home
Friends, family and community members marched across Nova Scotia's Canso Causeway on Wednesday to call attention to missing and murdered Indigenous women and in memory of Cassidy Bernard, a Mi'kmaw woman who died last month.
More than 100 people gathered on the Cape Breton side of the causeway, many wearing red in a nod to the national movement of displaying red dresses in solidarity with the fight for justice for missing and murdered women and girls.
Bernard, 22, was found dead in her home on We'koqma'q First Nation in Cape Breton on Oct. 24. Though police have released little information other than her death is suspicious, community members believe she was murdered.
Her six-month-old twins were in the home at the time of her death and were unharmed.
Bernard's mother, Mona Bernard, said her daughter was a "beautiful, young mother that had her life taken from her."
"She was so full of life. She lived every day to its fullest. There was nothing more pleasing to her than being the mother of identical twins. It's just so sad her life ended this way," Bernard said after the march.
Annie Bernard-Daisley wants people to remember her cousin, not as a statistic, but as a highly intelligent young woman who excelled in school and was devoted to her daughters.
"Cassidy was proud to be Mi'kmaw. Cassidy was proud to be a mother," she told CBC's Maritime Noon. "She was an all-round great person."
The rally comes one day after We'koqma'q First Nation's chief and council announced a $100,000 reward for any information that leads to the arrest and conviction of the person or people responsible for Bernard's death.
Bernard-Daisley is pleading for anyone with information about her cousin's case or others to share it.
"Be courageous, be brave. This epidemic in our country of missing and murdered women will not stop until we can come forward and put those names to the police," she said, adding that she worries for the safety of her own three daughters.
"Our lives are in jeopardy every day, and there are people out there that know information that would solve these cases but they're too afraid to come forward. We have to stop that fear."
Bernard-Daisley said she's clinging to the hope that raising awareness about Bernard will help. All too often, she said, cases aren't taken seriously.
"Families are left to grieve not only losing their loved ones but never knowing what happened to them. That has to stop."
We'koqma'q Chief Rod Googoo said his community is "like a big family" and the march was another way for people to feel less helpless. He said people want to ensure the spotlight stays on Bernard's case.
"Anything that happens to any of our women, it affects all of us. The whole community is still in shock, we're still grieving and we're still looking for answers," he said.
People, including school children, were bused in from across Cape Breton for the noon march. It started with a prayer, smudge and an honour song, and lasted for about an hour.
Many carried signs, including ones that read "No more stolen sisters" and "Justice will be served."
Lorraine Whitman of the Nova Scotia Native Women's Association led the group in a chorus of "Justice for Cassidy." She hopes the person responsible for Bernard's death comes forward.
"In order to heal, the perpetrator also has to come and to heal as well. And the sooner the better with the healing," she said in an interview.
The group paused halfway across the causeway to take a minute of silence in honour of every man, woman, boy and girl who has been murdered or is missing across the country.
The causeway was closed for the event and has since reopened.
With files from Holly Connors and Maritime Noon