Ogichidaa Francis Kavanaugh and Grand Council Treaty #3 have expressed outrage at the news of the reduction of charges laid against Brayden Bushby in the alleged killing of Barbara Kentner.
Bushby was to stand trial on October 5, against second degree murder charges. However, in a controversial move, which has sparked outrage from Kentner’s family and First Nations community leaders, Bushby’s charges were reduced to Second Degree Murder and Aggravated Assault on September 11. The trial, now set to begin October 13, has been downgraded from a full jury to a judge-only proceeding, to take place over four days.
Kentner, a member of Wabigoon Lake Ojibway Nation, was walking on a Thunder Bay street late one evening with her sister, when she was struck in the abdomen by a metal trailer hitch, thrown from a moving vehicle, on the early morning of January 29, 2017. She died in hospital of her injuries on July 2017. Kentner is survived by a teenage daughter.
Brayden Bushby, now 20, turned himself in to police in the days following the incident, and was charged with aggravated assault. However, those charges were upgraded to second degree murder after Kentner passed away from her injuries.
Community leaders feel the charges should have remained.
“We see this time and time again where violence against indigenous people is not given the same level of care and attention in the Canadian justice system,” said Ogichidaa Francis Kavanaugh, “It is difficult to believe there is not a racial component to this decision. For our people, it is easy to see that had the situation been reversed – had an indigenous person struck and killed a non-indigenous person – the accused would already be in jail facing a murder charge.”
The incident made national headlines at a time when the city of Thunder Bay was under scrutiny for systemic and widespread racism among citizens and police officers, said Kavanaugh. Headlines at the time showed several reports of racial slurs, and First Nations people being struck by pop bottles, raw eggs and other projectiles.
Kavanaugh feels the death of Kentner, 34, serves as a reminder of the dangers facing Treaty #3 citizens that find themselves in the city of Thunder Bay.
“Thunder Bay is a destination for many of our people here in Treaty #3 territory,” Kavanaugh said, “Whether living there or just visiting, we all know full well how notorious that city is for its widespread racism and hatred. For someone to be killed in such a manner, it demonstrates how problematic our peoples’ experiences can be there.”
During this time, Ogichidaa Kavanaugh and Grand Council Treaty #3 would like to express sincerest condolences to the family of Barbara Kentner, a press release from the Grand Council stated. Grand Council Treaty #3 and the leadership of the Anishinaabe Nation in Treaty #3 will continue to press on in their work on justice system reform, advocacy for Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls (MIIWG), and press for action on systemic racism in all its forms, it added.
All evidence in the trial is protected by a publication ban.
Timeline of events:
January 29, 2017 – Barbara Kentner was walking to a family home in the Cameron road area of Thunder Bay, when a metal trailer hitch thrown from a passing vehicle struck her in the abdomen, causing internal injuries.
February 6, 2017 – after being contacted by police, Brayden Bushby, who was 18 at the time, turned himself in. He was charged with aggravated assault and released to the custody of his parents.
July 4, 2017 – Barbara Kentner passed away as a result of her injuries.
November 3, 2017 – Bushby’s charge upgraded to second degree murder, after the case was reviewed by the Crown Attorney, the Thunder Bay Police’s Criminal Investigation’s Branch and the regional coroner’s office. The original aggravated assault charge was withdrawn.
November 3, 2017 – Bushby was released on bail, with a number of conditions.
September 9, 2019 – Bushby entered a plea of not guilty to the charge of second degree murder.
September 11, 2020 – The Crown Attorney requested the Ontario court to downgrade Bushby’s murder trial, and put forward a new indictment of manslaughter and aggravated assault, as a result of pretrial discussions. The Ontario Superior Court Justice agreed to the request.