We’koqma’q peace walk; sisters' support; men stand up against violence towards women
Sisters, through laughter and dark hours
Gina Poulette and sister Mona Bernard, now in their fifties, have been like “salt and pepper” since childhood.
Gina remembers their grandmother dressing them alike.
“She used to always get Mona in pink and me in purple, or me pink and her in purple. Everybody would say, ‘I'm going to Gina-mona's or Mona-gina's’. We swore we would never do this to our children.”
Mona confesses she did dress two of her daughters alike once, unintentionally, and the two share a laugh.
Their bond has also buoyed them through life’s darker hours.
Gina and Mona were among the dozens gathered, many regaled in red, at Whycocomagh Education Centre the morning of Dec.1 for a peace walk in honour of missing and murdered indigenous women.
As the crowd grew larger, Gina recalled the most recent dark hour.
“Five weeks and three days ago, I took my sister to the car. We had to go out of the house. It was pouring rain. I said, “Mona, why did God do this to us?' She turns around and she tells me, “Gina it wasn't God, it was somebody that took Cassidy. And I was like, whoa, you know, here I was almost losing it. And she put me back, she put me back into where I belonged.”
Mona’s daughter, Cassidy, age 22, was found dead in her home in We’koqma’q the morning of Oct. 24. Her infant twin girls, unharmed, were nearby. To date the RCMP has labelled Cassidy’s death “suspicious”. We’koqma’q Chief and Band Councillors have offered a $100,000 to the person(s) “whose information leads to the arrest and conviction of Cassidy’s murder.”
Gina has been taking Mona for drives to “keep sane”.
“We've been going through these stages, this process. And I have to admit, now I'm at anger. I'm trying my best not to do this, but I'm angry that somebody is walking around, and he's been walking around for five weeks and three days.”
Gina stresses they don’t know how Cassidy died, or the time of death. They only have their suspicions which they are keeping to themselves.
Mona also lost her son Carlyle Denny, age 19, in 2008.
Carlyle was found in Sydney Harbour. Police say he drowned.
“Mona was investigating it. She was trying to reopen it,” said Gina. “I didn't want her to do that because of what she'd be putting herself through after so many years. We went to the missing and murdered [inquiry]. We took part part in all this stuff because of Mona. Little did we know that we would be doing it for her daughter.”
For Mona, the Dec. 1 peace walk and the Nov.21 Red Dress Protest that closed the Canso Causeway are all about raising awareness.
“You have daughters, you have sisters, who have mothers. I don't want people to take advantage of that fact.”
Raising awareness is heavy work. With Gina by her side, Mona draws strength from all around.
“The girls [her twin granddaughters], and probably my spirits up there somewhere are holding me up,” says Mona looking up to the sky. “That's what I figured, my spirits are with me and they are holding me up. And, my Pulnol family is so full of love and strength for all of us. We're all like a chain that can't be broken.”
Cassidy Bernard's aunt Gina Poulette (left) and mother Mona Bernard (right) at the beginning of the peace walk for missing and murdered Indigenous women and men on Dec. 1 in Whycocomagh. Photo by Carolyn Barber / Victoria Standard.