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Five year old Shiloh Pictou is a jingle dancer who performs to raise awareness of missing and murdered aboriginal women. She and a group of Mi’kmaw drummers led the demonstration across the Canso Causeway. - Aaron Beswick
A demonstration to raise awareness about missing and murdered aboriginal women walks across the Canso Causeway on Wednesday. - Aaron Beswick
A demonstrator holds aloft a picture of 22 year old mother of twins Cassidy Bernard who was found dead in her We’koqma’q home on Oct. 24. - Aaron Beswick
Cassidy Bernard’s aunt Gina Poulette and young Briere Joy carry a poster memorializing the young woman who was found dead in her We’koqma’q home on Oct. 24. - Aaron Beswick
In a kinder world five-year-olds would only dance for the joy of it.
But Shiloh Pictou has been dancing since she was three to raise awareness about missing and murdered aboriginal women.
Her own great aunt, aboriginal rights advocate Annie Mae Aquash, was murdered in South Dakota.
On Monday, wearing a bright red dress and leggings with a beaded headband bearing MMIW, she led a procession down to the Canso Causeway because another young woman had been killed.
On Oct. 24, 22-year-old Cassidy Bernard was found dead in her We’koqma’q home.
The RCMP have said little else other than that they don’t believe it was a “random act” as they wait for the results of the medical examiner’s report.
But the band council is saying that she was murdered and is offering $100,000 for any information that brings the perpetrator to justice.
“My family is all overwhelmed,” said Cassidy Bernard’s mother, Mona Bernard.
“We need to heal. We need to pray. And I have faith that we will get answers.”
The hundreds of demonstrators from across Nova Scotia carried signs reading ‘Justice for Cassidy’ and bearing the names of other missing and murdered aboriginal women.
They walked behind Mi’kmaw drummers from Port Hastings across to Aulds Cove, before traffic was allowed to resume.
“We’re sorry for the inconvenience,” said Gina Poullette, Cassidy’s aunt.
“But you’ve got to remember, the day we lost Cassidy our lives stopped. Her little girls lives’ stopped. They waited for their mom to come and feed them, come give them their hugs and their kisses.”
Those six month old twins who were in the home with Bernard when she died, are now being raised by family.
Carrying a microphone, organizer Annie Bernard-Daisley made clear that the demonstration was for all missing and murdered aboriginal women.
Wearing a red shawl, Laurie Julian walked quietly along with the demonstration.
The court worker from the Mi’kmaq Legal Support Network has thought a lot about the greater dangers facing aboriginal women.
Though her observations aren’t directed at the case of Cassidy Bernard – who had a loving family and a home - she sees practical solutions that can save the lives of others.
Things like increased access to affordable housing both inside and outside First Nation communities and expanding programs like the superior court recently opened in Wagmatcook that incorporates the community and indigenous knowledge in its sentencing decisions.
“It’s about poverty and marginalization,” she said.
The first is a form of marginalization made more intense when coupled with racial marginalization.
“And marginalized people get targeted,” said Julian.
“You see an aboriginal woman go into a court system where nobody looks like her and gets nailed to the wall. Then you see a young St. F.X. student go in for a similar crime and get a slap on the wrist. You can’t tell me it’s not true – I’ve been doing this work for 15 years and I’ve seen it.”
The demonstrators arrived at the Irving Big Stop in Aulds Cove and gathered around Bernard-Daisley before going their different ways.
“We want Justin Trudeau to hear us,” said Bernard-Daisley.
“He says he’s so concerned about aboriginals but we need action, not just words.”