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Family of PEI woman who died suspicious death tells inquiry Indigenous lives matter

Kindra Bernard, right, accompanied by her mother, Deana Beaton, left, holds a photo of her great-grandmother, Mary Francis Paul, as she addresses the National Inquiry into Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls in Moncton on Feb. 14, 2018.

Andrew Vaughan/THE CANADIAN PRESS

The family of an Aboriginal woman from Prince Edward Island who died a suspicious death says they want people to know her life mattered.

"My mom matters. Our First Nation women matter," Barbara Bernard said as she spoke before the National Inquiry on Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls Wednesday in Moncton, N.B.

Bernard and her grand-daughter were there to talk about the life and death of Mary Francis Paul.

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They say they know few details about Paul's 1977 death on the Charlottetown waterfront and want to know if police investigated.

Barbara Bernard said her mother, from Scotchfort, P.E.I., had an alcohol problem and was a heavy drinker when she went out with friends but always returned home and cared for her family.

However Bernard said she noticed her mother was fidgety one night before going out – and then never returned.

Bernard said she learned days later her mother had been found dead near the water, but was only told that she had fallen and had a broken neck.

Bernard said she was 16 years old at the time, and police never gave her any details.

"No one really told me what happened to my mom. I never realized it could have been a murder or suspicious death," Bernard said.

She only discovered 12 years later that the death may have been suspicious, and the body had been in a metal bin, but says she never learned more from police.

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Now 57, Bernard said she has questions that she wants answered.

"Maybe they did investigate, maybe they didn't. I would like to know that for sure. The main thing is to find out if it was a suspicious death, was she murdered?" Bernard said.

"It felt like they didn't think my mom's life was worth anything, and that hurt. I think that's what made me decide to come here and tell my story for my mom, because my mom matters," she said, crying.

The inquiry was expected to hear from at least 35 people during two days in Moncton, including a youth panel Wednesday afternoon.

Most of the presenters have provided their stories in private.

The federal government set up the inquiry in December 2015 to address the high number of missing and murdered Indigenous women and girls.

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More than 700 people have shared their stories with the inquiry so far.

The inquiry into missing and murdered Indigenous women is calling for the creation of a national police force to address concerns from families. Chief commissioner Marion Buller says the inquiry has no police branch. The Canadian Press
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