Nova Scotia

Mi'kmaw woman makes provincial Liberal Party history

Nadine Bernard has won the provincial Liberal Party nomination for the riding of Victoria-The Lakes in Cape Breton. She is the first Indigenous woman to be chosen as a candidate for the party.

Nadine Bernard plans on running in the Victoria-The Lakes riding

Nadine Bernard is the Nova Scotia Liberal Party candidate for Victoria-The Lakes. (Submitted by Nadine Bernard)

A Cape Breton woman is celebrating her place in the province's history books as the first Indigenous woman to be chosen as a provincial Liberal Party candidate.

Last week, Nadine Bernard won the nomination for the riding of Victoria-The Lakes, which runs from Eskasoni to Bras d'Or. 

The 43-year-old said that come election time, she may possibly be the first Mi'kmaw woman to have her name on the provincial ballot.

"It's been a long time coming," Bernard said. "Next generations after me, they can see that it's achievable, that it's a safe place to enter into, and hopefully encourages other young Mi'kmaw people to want to run."

Bernard is a small-business owner who operates two consulting firms. She is also a grandmother and a mother of three adult children.

This is the second time Bernard sought to carry the Liberal Party banner. She ran to become the Liberal candidate in the riding of Sydney-Whitney Pier in 2015, but lost to current MLA Derek Mombourquette. 

Last Tuesday, Bernard defeated Stephen MacAskill, who works at Northern Contracting Ltd., and Victoria County councillor Perla MacLeod to become candidate for the next election. 

The riding is currently held by Progressive Conservative Keith Bain, who announced earlier this month he will run for re-election.

Not afraid of a challenge

Bernard grew up in We'koqma'q and is a band member for the community of Eskasoni. 

About a decade ago, she launched Slow Cooked Dreams, a business focused on improving food literacy through a series of cooking workshops. Her second business, Indigevisor, seeks to bridge the gap between First Nations communities and the construction sector. She is also a former project consultation officer with the Mi'kmaw Rights Initiative.

Bernard said being in the running to become the province's first Mi'kmaw MLA brings a lot of pressure. 

"You have to work 10 times harder to try to secure the seat," she said. "I'm not afraid of the challenge. I think I'm ready and I think I have everything I need to start this race. It's just a lot of pressure."

Annie Bernard-Daisley, chief of the We'koqma'q First Nation, agrees that it's harder for women in politics to prove themselves.

"It's a struggle for a woman to get her foot in the door and keep her foot in the door," Bernard-Daisley said. "We have to literally run ourselves ragged to make sure that everyone sees that we're doing a good job. It's like we're proving ourselves every day."

Starting from the ground up

Bernard said her race to become MLA is setting the stage for other Mi'kmaq and visible minorities to take a chance on themselves.

"I don't come from a long line of politicians," she said. "I didn't have politics discussed at the kitchen table for the last 50 years. That wasn't something that was a privilege passed on to me.

"As a Mi'kmaw woman here without having all those things to help me, I am starting from the ground and up and that should make it feel more comfortable and safe for others to want to do the same. That not your typical politician is going to come forward."

Bernard said that if successful in the forthcoming election, she plans to bring the concerns and opinions of her riding to the Nova Scotia Legislature. 

Right now, Bernard said she's busy putting together a team and plans to hit the ground running once the writ is dropped. 

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Erin Pottie

Reporter

Erin Pottie is a CBC reporter based in Sydney. She has been covering local news in Cape Breton for 15 years. Story ideas welcome at erin.pottie@cbc.ca.

now