'It's bittersweet': Cassidy Bernard's family responds to arrest

A member of Cassidy Bernard's family is feeling hopeful after the father of her young twin daughters was charged with second-degree murder more than a year after her death.

The 22-year old mother was found dead in her home in We'koqma'q First Nation in Cape Breton on Oct. 24, 2018. Dwight Austin Isadore, 20, was arrested Monday in the nearby community of Baddeck.

"A lot of hope, it's filling my soul, because this year has been so difficult. Not only for me, but the rest of my family," said Annie Bernard-Daisley, a We'koqma'q band councillor and Bernard's cousin.

"The anger, the resentment, the bitterness, the grief, the trauma. I had to put all that aside and refocus and try and put those negative emotions into positive reaction, just so it wouldn't consume me."

Cassidy Jean/Facebook

One year after Bernard's death, Bernard-Daisley organized a rally along the highway outside We'koqma'q First Nation. She was also instrumental in bringing the discussion of missing and murdered Indigenous women to the First Nations Self Government Summit in Halifax in November 2018.

"It's bittersweet because we know Cassidy won't come back," she said. "But we also know that justice is going to happen, and it's on its way."

Bernard was actively involved in her tight-knit community of We'koqma'q First Nation, Bernard-Daisley said, and never missed a community event even after giving birth to twins.

"She was a speaker of our language. She was proud to be Mi'kmaq. She was proud to be pregnant, and proud to deliver twins, and be the best mommy that she was," she said.

Brittany Wentzell/CBC

Isadore is also facing two counts of abandoning a child.

The infant girls were found inside the home at the same time Bernard's body was discovered. They were not directly harmed when their mother was killed, but Bernard-Daisley said the abandonment was harmful in itself.

"If you were there and you held a five-month old baby, to your chest, inside your shirt, with anything you can find to warm her up," she said. "You saw the look in her eyes, you saw the dent on top of her head, a clear sign and indication of dehydration. Their lips were cracked and dry almost to the point of bleeding ... They were lifeless.

"I'm not a doctor, I'm not an expert. But when I saw those babies that day, I knew they were probably hours away from dying."

The girls are now in the care of Bernard's mother, Bernard-Daisley said, and are "well-loved and well-nurtured."

Brittany Wentzell/CBC

While some expressed their frustrations at the lack of information given to the community during the RCMP's news conference on Tuesday, Bernard-Daisley said she's thankful for the care and time the investigators put in to the case.

"They worked overtime, they worked with their heart, and that was the most important thing," she said.

Even though they're a small community, Bernard-Daisley said the arrest in Bernard's death will carry "tremendous" weight in the discussions around missing and murdered Indigenous women and girls across the country.

"This case has gone nationwide, and it's impact will be felt throughout the nation. There's a lot of joy in that."