By The Canadian Press
WE’KOQMA’Q, N.S. _ More than a year after a 22-year-old Cape Breton woman was found dead in her home on the We’koqma’q First Nation, RCMP announced Tuesday they had charged Cassidy Bernard’s ex-boyfriend with second-degree murder.
The Mi’kmaq woman’s death prompted an outpouring of grief and anger from the Indigenous community, which has since staged a series of protests and offered a $100,000 reward for information leading to a conviction.
Police held a news conference at the local community hall to announce that 20-year-old Dwight Austin Isadore of Wagmatook had been charged with second-degree murder and two counts of abandoning a child.
When police found Bernard’s body on Oct. 24, 2018, her twin girls — only five months old — were found in a crib next to her, suffering from dehydration but otherwise unharmed.
“We have family members here today and are very grateful for their support throughout the investigation,” said RCMP Sgt. Glenn Bonvie.
“I can’t speak for them, but I know our investigators have been focusing on solving this homicide and have been in regular contact with the family. I hope that the arrest and charges will be a step forward in the healing process for the family and the entire community.’’
When asked why the investigation took more than a year, Bonvie said: “We wanted to make sure we collected all the necessary evidence … We cannot rush investigations like this.”
Bonvie declined to release any details about the evidence or how Bernard died, saying the matter was now before the courts. Police have said little else about the case since it was first reported.
However, Bonvie confirmed Isadore was arrested Monday in nearby Baddeck, N.S., and he said no other arrests or charges were expected.
As well, the RCMP officer said the Mounties appreciated the community’s efforts to raise awareness about the crime.
“It definitely was an added bonus,” he said. “It’s nice knowing we had that added support.”
In April of this year, two of Bernard’s sisters and a cousin met briefly with Nova Scotia Premier Stephen McNeil and other members of the legislature to draw attention to the case.
“Our lives are precious and our lives matter,” Annie Bernard-Daisley, one of Bernard’s cousins, said at the time. “For far too long, since colonization, our women have been hunted. When I say hunted, they have been murdered and gone missing without a trace.’’
In November 2018, hundreds of marchers blocked the Canso Causeway connecting Cape Breton to mainland Nova Scotia to raise awareness about issues relating to missing and murdered Indigenous women.
Organizers on Facebook called the event the Red Dress Protest, and many of the marchers wore red or held red dresses. Others posted photos of red dresses hanging in windows or from trees to show solidarity with the protesters.