Moose Hide Campaign reaches Cape Breton
As the peace walk in support of Cassidy Jean Bernard’s family and the community of We’koqma’q came to a close at Skye River Trail on Dec. 1, an unexpected gesture from one male community leader to another helped spread awareness of a nationwide campaign to end violence against women.
Close to one hundred women, men and children united at the entrance of Whycocomagh Education Centre to walk down Main St. Whycocomagh, then west on Hwy 105 to the Skye River Trail where they stood - arms raised, fists clenched – in solidarity and support. Among the crowd was Cassidy’s mother, Mona, and her aunt, Gina Poulette.
Cassidy Jean Bernard, 22, of We’koqma’q, was found dead on Oct. 24 in her home with her healthy twin infant girls close by. Thus far, the RCMP have labelled her death suspicious. On Nov. 20, We’koqma’q Chief and Council decisively issued a reward of $100,000 for “information leading to the arrest and conviction of Cassidy’s murderer.”
“I felt the love, support and friendship from the neighbouring community of Whycocomagh and all these residents that came out today to support us,” said We’koqma’q Band Councillor Cyrus Bernard, also second cousin to Cassidy Bernard. “That meant the world to me, to my community and to my family."
As the crowd dispersed, Reverend Andrew Macdonald of Saint Andrew's Presbyterian Church presented Councillor Bernard with a package. Inside were small squares of moose hide affixed to cards explaining the mission of the Moose Hide Campaign.
The Canada-wide campaign was launched from British Columbia in 2011 by father and daughter, Paul and Raven Lacerte, following a moose-hunting trip near the stretch of B.C. Highway 16 known as the Highway of Tears.
“We really had a moment of inspiration to take that moose hide, tan it, cut it up into little squares and give it to men as an outward sign of our commitment to end violence against women and children in this country and as a promise never to do violence to the women and children in our life,” says Paul Lacerte in a campaign promotional video.
Reverend Macdonald has two young daughters ages four and 16 months.
“They're my pride and joy and I couldn't imagine that happening to them or anyone else ever again. Hopefully, we can end this violence.”
Councillor Bernard said he was pleasantly surprised by Macdonald’s gesture and began distributing the moose hide immediately.
“I didn't know such a campaign existed. I'm more than happy to pass these out and spread the message of non-violence against women.”
Bernard says a huge change in mindset is required to turn the tide on violence toward women.
“The role that men can play now is to listen and stop the violence. Men need to listen to their women - their mothers, their grandmothers - to stop the violence. My mother, she played a very important role in raising me and my siblings and we all have the utmost respect for one another, for our husbands, for our wives, and I always will.”
The day prior to the peace walk, Bernard composed the following poem. Take a lady by the hand That's not hard to understand Neither the wrist n'or the arm Unless your intent is to harm For they believed all will be well Unaware there wasn't time to tell This journey sadly began losing you With the hope of finding those guilty few Truth be told I am broken inside Please help us change the tide
“It's untitled. It's pretty simple,” said Bernard. “I'd like to see it titled 'Red Tide'.”
To follow the Moose Hide Campaign, visit moosehidecampaign.ca or visit the Facebook page.
A composite of two photos from the Dec. 1 peace walk. A crowd raises their fists in solidarity, including We’koqma’q Band Councillor Cyrus Bernard (third from left) and We’koqma’q resident Clifford Copage pictured on right. Photos by Carolyn Barber / VS.
Reverend Andrew Macdonald has helped to bring the Moose Hide campaign to the island.