We’ko­qma’q peace walk; sis­ters' sup­port; men stand up against vi­o­lence to­wards women

Sis­ters, through laugh­ter and dark hours

The Victoria Standard - - Front Page - CAR­OLYN BAR­BER

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.

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