One year after Cassidy Bernard's family was crushed with heartbreak after finding the young mother dead in her We'koqma'q First Nation home, they are planning a vigil they hope will bring people together in solidarity for her and all missing and murdered Indigenous people.
Taking place Thursday, Indigenous and non-Indigenous people are asked to participate in the vigil which will last for 4,365 seconds (an hour and 13 minutes) — a number which represents the estimated 4,000 missing and murdered Indigenous women and girls in Canada and the 365 days Bernard's family and twin daughters have been without her.
"I am asking people, everyone, to come and stand with us in solidarity as Canadians — we are all Canadians," said Annie Bernard-Daisley one of Bernard's cousins who is organizing the event.
"Stand up and show your support, not just for us but for our little girls, our men, our people who are missing and murdered."
Bernard-Daisley told the Cape Breton Post during a phone interview Tuesday night that they are hoping for a large turnout so they can line the highway in We'koqma'q, wearing red dresses or holding signs with the red dress on it, and make an impact this way instead of blocking traffic like they did when they blocked the Canso Causeway in protest.
Calling on people to wear red dresses, red shirts or make posters with the red dress symbol, Bernard-Daisley said she hopes they can make the day a positive one instead of dwelling on what they lost.
"Knowing Cassidy, had it been anyone else in the family or anyone else in the community that this happened to, she'd be the first one fighting for us. I keep that with me every day," said Bernard-Daisley who wrote a first-person account of the day she learned of her cousin's suspicious death.
"We planned the vigil because we wanted to make (the anniversary of finding Cassidy) a positive day of action. We could be sitting at home crying all day — well, we might— but at least this way we are doing something which might help our missing and murdered Indigenous people."
Vigil for all missing and murdered Indigenous people
In memory of Cassidy Bernard
- When: Thursday, Oct. 24
- Where: We'kogma'q
- Start time: 4 p.m.
- Meeting time: 3:30 p.m.
- Location: Sky River Bridge
- Everyone welcome, Indigenous and non-Indigenous.
- Please wear a red dress or display one.
RCMP have deemed Bernard's death "suspicious" but aren't disclosing many other details.
"The investigation is ongoing," said RCMP spokesperson Cpl. Jennifer Clarke. "Our investigators are in regular contact with the family and have a great rapport with them."
"We fully realize the community is waiting for answers from us. We look forward to being able to provide an update on this incident."
Bernard-Daisley said this vigil won't be the last one they plan for Canada's missing and murdered Indigenous people because they don't want the federal government to sit on the recommendations made in "Reclaiming the Power," the final report from the Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls Inquiry. She's even told Prime Minister Justin Trudeau on Sept. 18 during a Liberal rally for Lenore Zann she hopes he won't forget Canada's missing and murdered Indigenous people and that she hopes his government acts on recommendations made in the inquiry.
"I told him that he was on unceded territorial land of the Mi'kmaq. I gave him a medicine bundle, made from a water protector so he doesn't forget how important our water protectors are. I told him that there were 231 Calls for Justice (made in the inquiry) and it's not over yet (the work that has to be done)," she said. "He said, 'I know.'"
"Maybe now the 231 Calls for Justice made in the Inquiry will actually be talked about in government now. And they're not just going to be sitting on a shelf collecting dust."
The vigil in memory of Cassidy Bernard, who was 22 when she died with six-month-old twin girls who were found next to her severely dehydrated and hungry, and all missing and murdered Indigenous people takes place on Thursday at 4 p.m. People wanting to participate are asked to meet at the bridge near the start of the Skye River Trail by 3:30 p.m. Following Mi'kmaq tradition, a meal will follow at the community fire hall, free of charge for participants, as long as there is enough to feed everyone.