Nova Scotia RCMP have laid second-degree murder charges in the death of an Indigenous woman from the We’koqma’q First Nation.
Dwight Austin Isadore has been arrested and charged with the death of 22-year-old Cassidy Bernard, who was found in her home on the Cape Breton reserve on Oct. 24, 2018.
Her twin five-and-a-half-month-old girls were found suffering from dehydration in a crib next to their mother.
Isadore, the father of the children, also faces two charges of abandoning a child.
He appeared in Port Hawkesbury Provincial Court this morning before being remanded into custody.
Isadore will appear back in court Dec. 16 to set dates for trial.
The RCMP announced the charges at a press conference Tuesday on the We’koqma’q First Nation.
More than 50 people from the community were in the room to attend the press conference.
The Mounties said their officers are appreciative of the continued support of Cassidy’s family.
“We are very pleased to share this outcome with Cassidy’s family. This is what we have been working towards”, says Sgt. Glenn Bonvie, the acting officer in charge of the Nova Scotia RCMP Major Crimes Unit.
“Our hope is that today is 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.
With files from The Canadian Press and Graeme Benjamin