(Mona Bernard holds a picture of her son Carlye Denny. Denny drowned after spending the afternoon with friends. Bernard says police didn’t do a proper investigation. Photo: APTN)
A grieving Nova Scotia mother is calling on the national inquiry into missing and murdered Indigenous women and girls (MMIWG) to expand its mandate to include men.
“As a parent, it doesn’t matter if it is a daughter or son. They are your children,” said Mona Bernard from Eskasoni First Nation on Cape Breton Island. “They are somebody’s brother or husband.”
Bernard lost her 19-year-old son Carlye Denny on July 12, 2008. He drowned after spending the afternoon near Sydney Harbour with friends.
But Bernard said she doesn’t believe police investigated the case thoroughly.
“I have no proof, just my gut feeling,” she said, adding an autopsy report she obtained stated he was covered in abrasions.
The case was closed as an accidental death by Sydney police within a couple of weeks.
According to police reports, her son went swimming with people he had just met two weeks earlier.
They stated they woke up after a short nap and found him gone. His body was recovered nearby the next morning.
“Why would he be in that water?” she asked. “It doesn’t make sense.”
The inclusion of men in the current inquiry has been a topic of debate amongst advocates and families. The terms of reference limit the commissioners to focus on women but the commissioners have said they will look at how men and boys can be involved.
“We are over-represented as missing and murdered people,” said Cheryl Maloney, Nova Scotia Native Women’s Association (NSNWAC) president. “I say ‘people’ because I have been advocating that we must look at missing and murdered men, as well.”
“I know we have in some provinces double the number of men as women,” she said. “In one province alone – Saskatchewan – 47 per cent of all missing people are Indigenous.”
Bernard and her friend Tricia Johnson, who lost her sister, Cheryl, in 2001 organized a memorial walk for their loved ones. Sydney’s Wentworth Park hosted the first one on September 25, 2016.
“We incorporated the men in there because there were several men that were found in that same area,” said Bernard, noying they will walk every year. ”I felt like we had a strong force helping us.”
For more information about families and police investigations, tune into APTN Investigates Friday, May 5 for Holly’s program Precious Ones. She investigates the sudden deaths of three Indigenous women over 15 years where families say they wonder why their deaths were not considered suspicious by police. Meet sisters who conducted their own investigations after police failed to give them the answers they need. They are looking to the upcoming inquiry for help but are losing hope.