Cape Breton man pleads guilty to manslaughter in 2018 death of Cassidy Bernard

·3 min read
Cassidy Bernard was found dead in her home on the We'koqma'q First Nation in Nova Scotia on Oct. 24, 2018.  (Facebook - image credit)
Cassidy Bernard was found dead in her home on the We'koqma'q First Nation in Nova Scotia on Oct. 24, 2018. (Facebook - image credit)

A We'koqma'q First Nation woman was beaten by the father of her infant daughters and tucked into bed once she became unconscious, a Nova Scotia court heard Monday as Dwight Austin Isadore pleaded guilty to manslaughter in the young mother's death.

Isadore was initially charged with second-degree murder in the October 2018 death of 22-year-old Cassidy Bernard, but pleaded guilty to the lesser charge Monday in Port Hawkesbury.

"It's bittersweet because you know that nothing is going to bring Cassidy back," said Bernard's cousin Annie Bernard-Daisley, the chief of We'koqma'q.

"You had a national inquiry [into Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls] and you have 231 calls to justice to fix, repair, amend the relationship with Indigenous people in this country ... Today is a prime example that these relationships can be repaired."

According to an agreed statement of facts, Isadore and his on-again, off-again girlfriend had been arguing by text message in the days before her death.

The pair began dating in the early part of 2017, and their relationship was often affected by episodes of domestic violence and shared drug use.

Bernard's final message to Isadore was that she accepted the relationship was over and she was prepared to move on, although she didn't necessarily want to.

The Wagmatcook man showed up at Bernard's home unexpectedly in the early morning hours of Oct. 21, 2018.

He admitted to an uncover officer that he struck Bernard with his fists, hitting her in the neck, back and stomach. He also believed he hit her roughly 10 times in the head, face and neck area as hard as he could.

After Bernard fell silent, Isadore said he tried to wake her. When she could not be roused, Isadore said her carried Bernard to her room, tucked her into bed and tried to cover the bruising on her face with makeup. He also wiped down his fingerprints and left their twin daughters in their crib.

When he returned home, Isadore said he burned the makeup used on Bernard.

Arrest made a year later

Bernard's body was discovered in her home three days later. Bernard's seven-month-old twins were discovered in the home cold, severely dehydrated, malnourished, disoriented and confused.

They were found with blue lips and their diapers heavily soiled.

RCMP arrested Isadore a little over a year after Bernard's death.

The arrest followed a six-month-long sting known as a Mr. Big operation in which Isadore was introduced to several undercover officers who played various roles within a mock crime organization.

The goal of the sting was to get Isadore, who was their primary suspect, to provide information about Bernard's death.

In November 2019, after about 17 interactions with undercover police, Isadore was given an opportunity to meet an undercover officer posing as an alleged crime boss

In a secretly recorded conversation, Isadore confessed to assaulting Bernard and that during their argument Bernard stuck him in the hand with a needle. Toxicology reports on Bernard did not indicate the presence of drugs in her system.

Crown lawyers said the RCMP's investigative technique was a key tool in getting justice for the family.

"But for the Mr. Big operation and the evidence that was gathered from that investigation, including his confession, it's unlikely there would have been a charge perhaps laid against anyone in the death of Ms. Bernard," said Crown prosecutor Glenn Gouthro.

Sentencing set for July 6

In addition to manslaughter, Isadore also pleaded guilty to abandoning his infant daughters.

Isadore is due back in court July 6 in Port Hawkesbury for sentencing.

Bernard's death prompted a number of marches and rallies in Cape Breton to call attention to missing and murdered Indigenous women and girls across the country.