Warning: This article contains details that may be disturbing to some readers. Discretion is advised.
The former partner of a We’koqma’q First Nation woman – and the father of her young twins – has pleaded guilty to manslaughter in her 2018 death.
Austin Isadore was initially charged with second-degree murder in the death of Cassidy Bernard. However, the Crown accepted a guilty plea on Monday in Port Hawkesbury Supreme Court to the lesser charge of manslaughter.
Isadore also pleaded guilty to two charges of child abandonment.
Bernard was 22 years old when her body was discovered on Oct. 24, 2018, by her mother and a social worker — she was tucked in her bed at her home in Waycobah on Cape Breton.
According to an agreed statement of facts, Bernard’s seven-month-old twin daughters were found in their cribs in the same bedroom, “cold, dehydrated, malnourished, disoriented and confused.”
Among the evidence recovered from the bedroom was a bank card with Isadore’s name on it and “evidence of possible drug use.”
An autopsy later determined Bernard’s death was due to blunt force injuries, and her death was classified as a homicide. Toxicology reports also did not show any drugs in her system
On the day Bernard’s body was found, Isadore gave a “cautioned” statement to RCMP and said he last saw her on Oct. 18 and had heard from her via text on Oct. 21. He told police the two were “not that close” and they had broken up after the twins were born. He also said he hadn’t been to her home in about five months, although he was “not quite sure.”
“Mr. Big” operation
Isadore was formally arrested and charged more than a year later in December 2019, after a so-called “Mr. Big” sting operation.
According to the agreed statement of facts, RCMP began their “undercover investigative technique” on May 27, 2019.
“The objective was to have Mr. Isadore, who the RCMP determined was the primary suspect in the killing of Ms. Bernard, to provide any information he had concerning Ms. Bernard’s death to undercover RCMP officers,” the statement reads.
“To realize this goal, the undercover officers engaged Mr. Isadore in communications and provided him with opportunities to be part of their supposed criminal organization.”
The operation lasted six months, during which time Isadore was introduced to “several undercover officers” who posed as friends, associates and customers of the fictitious criminal organization.
On Nov. 30, 2019, he was offered a chance to meet the “crime boss,” who informed him he was the suspect in a homicide investigation.
It was during this meeting that Isadore, according to the agreed statement, said he went to Bernard’s home in the early morning hours on Oct. 21, 2018 and began arguing over Bernard’s “supposed relationship with another man and about drug related matters.”
He went on to say he struck Bernard with his fists, and hit her about 10 times in the head, face and neck area “as hard as he could.” When he noticed her face was swollen and that her head dropped, he told the “crime boss” he took her outside to try and wake her up.
She didn’t wake up.
He then said he laid her in bed, put a blanket on her and “told her that he loved her.”
“Before he left the residence, Mr. Isadore stated to the “Crime Boss” that he put makeup around Ms. Bernard’s eyes, cheeks, and face with a makeup brush that he found,” read the statement.
“He then tried to wipe everything down to get rid of his fingerprints. He left the children in their crib.”
Three days after that meeting on Dec. 3, 2019, Isadore was formally arrested and interviewed on camera at the Port Hawkesbury RCMP detachment.
During the interview, he admitted going to Bernard’s home and hitting her, putting her in her bed and applying the makeup to conceal her injuries.
“He then confirmed that when he left the residence the twins were still in their crib. He did not return,” reads the statement.
“In his statement Mr. Isadore indicated that he loved Ms. Bernard and expressed remorse for what had happened.”
Fight for justice
Bernard’s death and the search for justice has been closely tied to the Red Dress movement, which aims to bring attention to attention the issue of missing and murdered Indigenous women.
In November 2018, some 300 protesters blocked the Canso Causeway connecting Cape Breton to mainland Nova Scotia, to show support for Bernard’s family.
In April 2019, two of Bernard’s sisters and a cousin met with then-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.”
Isadore’s family reached out to Global News and offered a statement.
“There are no words or actions that that can explain or take away the pain and loss that Austin caused to Cassidy, her family and her loved ones. We hope that Austin’s plea brings some justice for Cassidy, the twins and their family,” said his grandmother, Patricia MacKay.
Isadore is scheduled to be back in court on July 6 for sentencing.