Red dress protest for Cassidy Bernard of We’koqma’q First Nation closes causeway to Cape Breton

Chanting “justice for Cassidy” more than 200 people sang, and marched to the beat of drums across the Canso Causeway that links Cape Breton and mainland Nova Scotia to remember 22 year old Cassidy Bernard and other women and men who have died from violence.

The “Red Dress Protest” took place Tuesday in honour of Cassidy, the mother of twins who was from the We’koqma’q First Nation.

The walk started at noon on the Cape Breton side. Police closed down the causeway so people could walk across peacefully.

It was led by a young girl wearing a jingle dress and dancing as the drummers sang the Honour Song.

They also chanted “justice for Tanya Brooks”, and “justice for Virginia Pictou,” two other women who were murdered in Nova Scotia.

The protest was more than raising awareness, it was an action against the violence all Indigenous women and men.

Cassidy’s family attended the protest.

“I want to thank everybody for their condolences and coming out today and taking part in this walk,” said Cassidy’s older sister Tyra Denny. “There is a $100,000 reward for information.”

“Our community is not at ease with all this going on and we want to bring justice for my sister.”

Bernard, 22, was found dead in her We’koqma’q home on Oct. 24.

The reward is for information that will lead to an arrest and conviction.

Chief Rod Googoo said the community had to do something.

“We felt we could do something to assist,” said Googoo. “We feel that someone knows something and maybe one piece of information will help the case.”

Gina Poulette is Bernard’s aunt.

“I know everyone here. We come from a big family, but we come from a bigger family of our people,” she said. “Some people complained of the highway stopped, when we lost Cassidy, our lives stopped.”

“So, we take an hour to remember Cassidy and all the others.”

Lorraine Whitman, president of the Nova Scotia Native Women’s Association, was one of the drummers who led the protest.

“We are letting people know that we are not silent anymore. We are not going to kneel down to fear. The violence, if it be physical, mental, spiritual, the violence that is taking place, we are not going to take it anymore,” said Whitman.

Drummer and singer Karina Matthews Denny of Membertou First Nation said she felt empowered.

“To see unity amongst so many people, we have to bring light into the darkness we have been seeing. We are free, we must always remember that.”

Halfway across the causeway, the drumming and the singing stopped for a moment of silence.

The wind kept blowing, and ice pellets shattered on the pavement.

After a few minutes, the drumming began, and the crowd sang the Honour Song.

About an hour after the walk began, the protesters were across the causeway. They hugged and cheered.

They gathered in a parking lot, and some stood alongside the road as traffic resumed. Vehicles honked in support as they drove by.

Whitman said she was happy to see the crowd of children, elders, and men, with the women.

“We will stop this violence by pulling together in solidarity and speaking out and let people know that we have to be responsible of our actions.

“Solidarity is the support we are looking for that we have here today.”

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