We all bleed red

Re­mem­ber­ing Cas­sidy Jean Bernard, found dead in her home on the We’koqma’q First Na­tion

Cape Breton Post - - Front Page - An­nie Bernard Dais­ley

Edi­tor’s note: The fol­low­ing is a first-per­son ac­count from a fam­ily mem­ber of Cas­sidy Jean Bernard, who was found dead in her home on the We’koqma’q First Na­tion on Oct. 24. The RCMP is con­tin­u­ing its in­ves­ti­ga­tion into the case.

The morn­ing of Oc­to­ber 24, 2018 will for­ever be etched in my mem­o­ries. Those mem­o­ries will haunt my fam­ily for­ever.

They aren’t pleas­ant mem­o­ries, they aren’t snap­shots of the pic­turesque scenery that sur­rounds our beau­ti­ful com­mu­nity, they aren’t full of joy, and sadly they aren’t even full of life.

The morn­ing of Oct. 24 was heav­ily dark and gloomy, al­most like a fore­run­ner of things to come. Rain beat down on our com­mu­nity, bring­ing a sign of our heartache and the un­count­able tears that will flow.

“There’s an emer­gency at Mona’s. You guys should leave and check on her,” said We’koqma’q Chief Rod Goo­goo, to me and oth­ers at that morn­ing’s band coun­cil meet­ing.

On the way, I vaguely re­mem­ber the drive over and the walk in to my cousin’s house. Once there, I found out that my beau­ti­ful cousin, Cas­sidy Jean Bernard, had died.

Died?? Where are her ba­bies? How did she die? Oh my god! Mona is scream­ing and cry­ing in ag­o­niz­ing pain of find­ing her baby girl Cas­sidy dead.

As my­self and a cou­ple of my cousins tended to Cas­sidy’s two ba­bies, Mya and Pais­ley, it seemed like chaos sur­rounded us — grief, shock, anger, sad­ness, worry and ev­ery other emo­tion that no one wants to feel. Con­fu­sion sets in my head and sad­ness, com­plete sad­ness that’s mir­rored in the ba­bies’ eyes.

I held and fed Mya as she stared into my eyes. Pais­ley also had the same look in her eyes, sad­ness, no cry­ing, just a look of pure sad­ness. These ba­bies wit­nessed the life leave their mother, and just six months be­fore the morn­ing of Oct. 24 they were still nes­tled healthy and safe in their mommy’s belly.

As we gath­ered at my aunt’s — Mona’s mother’s house — we all car­ried the hurt and shocked

looks on our faces. Then, slowly but surely, anger and rage set in.

Who the heck would want to hurt a beau­ti­ful per­son like Cas­sidy?

A mur­derer did, that’s who! In no time, foren­sics and ma­jor crime in­ves­ti­ga­tors de­scended on the scene to gather in­for­ma­tion and to speak to and ques­tion any­one and ev­ery­one.

As I write this, it’s been 14 days since that morn­ing. At this point, we know as much as ev­ery­one else.

At Cas­sidy’s fu­neral, the priest said that we are in our sec­ond life and the next life that we live will be in the af­ter­life. As a com­mu­nity steeped in the Catholic reli­gion, our sta­tus on Earth is in limbo. We are in pur­ga­tory wait­ing for an ar­rest.

Aboriginal women make up four per cent of the to­tal fe­male pop­u­la­tion in Canada. Aboriginal women also make up 16 per cent of miss­ing and mur­dered women in Canada. When did this be­come nor­mal? Right now, it is nor­mal. Those statis­tics make it nor­mal.

In fact, there are so many cases that the Cana­dian gov­ern­ment doesn’t have an ex­act num­ber. They es­ti­mate be­tween 1,000 to 4,000. Do I re­ally live in the “best” coun­try in the world? Do I re­ally live in the safest coun­try in the world?

I have three daugh­ters and at any time in their pre­cious lives, they could go miss­ing and mur­dered — the alarm­ing stats say so. We, as Indige­nous women, are seven times more likely to go miss­ing and be killed than your av­er­age non-na­tive woman.

It def­i­nitely isn’t any­thing about our up­bring­ing, let me tell you that.

Let me tell you a lit­tle about our Pul­nol fam­ily. We were all raised to pro­tect, love, cher­ish and to just be there for each other.

Our grand­par­ents, Char­lie and An­nie Mae, taught us these val­ues and they are just as strong to­day as they were when they were alive. Cas­sidy Jean Bernard, a grand­daugh­ter as well, was brought up with the ex­act same prin­ci­ples.

Na­tion­ally, we hear of the

High­way of Tears in Bri­tish Columbia., the Robert Pick­ton case where most of his vic­tims were Aboriginal. Do you want to know why? Be­cause it has been proven time and again that some po­lice of­fi­cers show lit­tle to no em­pa­thy to the vic­tim’s fam­ily.

We hear of the deroga­tory term “just an­other dead In­dian.” You know that term has be­come leg­endary na­tion­wide. It speaks for it­self. It is so hard not to be an­gry. As a mother of daugh­ters, this hurts my soul. As a cousin to Cas­sidy, this hurts too much. It is raw and the feel­ings are fresh.

What I want Canada to know is that killers and mur­der­ers walk amongst us. They walk amongst us be­cause they have never been con­victed and tried and brought to jus­tice.

What I want Cas­sidy’s killer to know is that we are strong. We are stronger that you ever will be. You left two ba­bies for dead as you walked away from Cas­sidy’s life­less body.

You are a cow­ard. You took her away from us. You took a mommy away from her ba­bies and you took a baby girl away from her mother.

You took a sis­ter, an aunt, a grand­daugh­ter, a cousin, a niece and a friend away from us all.

As moth­ers of the next gen­er­a­tion, we are go­ing to teach our girls to fight. Fight for their lives! We are liv­ing in the best coun­try in the world, a coun­try that was founded on un­ceded ter­ri­to­rial land and still we are forced to learn to fight for our lives. This is the sad re­al­ity.

My hope is that there will be jus­tice for Cas­sidy. My hope is that we, as aboriginal women, will not have to live in fear of be­ing an ig­nored statis­tic. My hope is that an ar­rest and the per­son re­spon­si­ble is brought to jus­tice.

I pray that the team in­ves­ti­gat­ing does so with metic­u­lous care, that noth­ing is left un­turned, that they feel our fam­ily’s emo­tions and wit­ness the raw pain in Cas­sidy’s fam­ily. Our thoughts are with you as well. It can’t be easy to work in this field. Please do not be so de­sen­si­tized that this is brushed aside.

Now, let me tell you a lit­tle about Cas­sidy. Oh my! Such pure beauty. She was a sparkler! A nat­u­ral fire­cracker, small in stature but big­ger than life. She had so many friends that she loved and they loved her just as much.

The at­ten­tive and cre­ative side of her per­son­al­ity was amaz­ing to wit­ness.

She was strong in her Mi’kmaq cul­ture, a speaker of the lan­guage and a singer of our lan­guage. There are so many videos cap­tur­ing her beau­ti­ful voice, her dis­tinc­tive voice. I can’t help but smile just think­ing of her and how she spoke, how hear­ing her sing to her ba­bies on video is a beau­ti­ful thing to watch.

And her preg­nancy. Oh, my good­ness! It was ex­cit­ing to find out that she was ex­pect­ing twins. Two girls that were born a lit­tle early but healthy and strong. They thrived and were so well taken care of by their mommy.

They were her life. She fed, bathed, burped, and even nursed those pre­cious ba­bies like a pro­fes­sional. She took to moth­er­hood so grace­fully. Be­ing a mom my­self, I couldn’t imag­ine han­dling two at a time and it was amaz­ing how well she did. She was a lov­ing mother with her pre­cious cargo.

You see, I want you all to know that side of Cas­sidy. She was a per­son, a hu­man whose life was short­ened un­fairly.

The Justin Trudeau gov­ern­ment had rec­og­nized in 2015 that an in­quiry should be held — the Na­tional In­quiry into Miss­ing and Mur­dered Indige­nous Women and Girls.

Last month, the in­quiry an­nounced its fi­nal pub­lic hear­ing dates and a fi­nal re­port and rec­om­men­da­tions will be sent to the gov­ern­ment by April 2019.

To me, it’s sim­ple: treat ev­ery homi­cide like you would treat a non-na­tive homi­cide. Then, we wouldn’t have needed the in­quiry. Our lives mat­ter.

Re­mem­ber that killers walk amongst us. Re­mem­ber that killers walk amongst you. Yes, that’s right — you.

Be­cause our lives as Indige­nous women do not seem to mat­ter, that means these killers are al­lowed to roam right be­side you. Yes, get an­gry. Be mad, feel un­safe and get en­raged. We all need to work to­gether on this. Then, and only then, will these killers be re­moved from your vicin­ity.

I have one fi­nal re­quest: please be coura­geous.

If you have any in­for­ma­tion on Cas­sidy’s death, please come for­ward, please be brave. I feel strong writ­ing this for my fam­ily. I am giv­ing you my strength to come for­ward.

Please think of Cas­sidy, think of her par­ents, Mona and Lonzo, think of her sib­lings, Jil­lian, Tyra, Rene and Jor­dan. Think of her ba­bies. Come for­ward. Some­one out there knows some­thing. Be coura­geous.

“The time to be scared is in the past. The past can­not hurt you. We have to learn from the past. Re­mem­ber your fam­i­lies and the ones that you love, the women that you love. They could be eas­ily taken from us just like Cas­sidy was taken from us. Some­one had the nerve to do what they did to Cas­sidy and it does not sit very well with us,” said We’koqma’q el­der and Cas­sidy’s great un­cle, John Wayne Bernard.

#jus­tice­for­cas­sidy

SUB­MIT­TED PHOTO

Cas­sidy Jean Bernard was found dead in her home on the We’koqma’q First Na­tion on Oct. 24. The com­mu­nity is still reel­ing in the af­ter­math of the tragic in­ci­dent.

SUB­MIT­TED PHOTO

Cas­sidy Jean Bernard’s death left Mya and Pais­ley, her in­fant twin daugh­ters, with­out a mother.

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