Months after being struck by a trailer hitch thrown from a moving vehicle, Barbara Kentner, a citizen of the Waabigon Saaga’igan Anishinaabeg (Wabigoon Lake Ojibway Nation), passed away in the early hours of July 4th at the Thunder Bay Regional Health Sciences Center. She was 34.
Kentner was walking on Mackenzie Street in Thunder Bay with her sister Melissa on January 29 of this year when she was struck by a trailer hitch from a moving vehicle. She was admitted to hospital with severe internal injuries. A short time later, 18-year-old Brayden Bushby was arrested and charged with aggravated assault after police contacted him.
Nishnawbe Aski Nation (NAN) Deputy Grand Chief Anna Betty Achneepineskum offered condolences on Kentner’s passing.
“We are deeply saddened by the passing of Barbara Kentner of Waabigon Saaga’igan Anishinaabeg. Our heartfelt condolences to her daughter Serena, family, friends, loved ones, and the community of Wabigoon and Treaty #3,” Achneepineskum said. “I want to acknowledge the outpouring of support extended to the family in their request for assistance, supports, and prayers throughout the last few months and coming days.”
The Ontario Native Women’s Association (ONWA) also offered their condolences in a written statement.
“Barbara will be remembered by family and friends for her great sense of humour, and the love she had for her family. Barbara ensured that those that supported her in her last days always had a good laugh a d smile to walk away with. She loved every single member of her family so very much,” ONWA released in a statement.
A Go-Fund-Me account that was launched by family friend Deanne Hupfield raised just over $23K in order to cover funeral costs and also support for Kentner’s daughter Serena.
“This has provided them with the peace of mind knowing the family can provide Barb with a burial that recognizes and honours her spirit,” ONWA stated.
There is currently a Change.org petition circulating social media that calls for charges against Bushby to be upgraded. Thunder Bay Police Services spokesperson Chris Adams has said that investigators are awaiting a coroner’s report in order to review the post-mortem results and determine if any new charges against Bushby will be made.
Achneepineskum said racism in Thunder Bay needs to be acknowledged.
“We all must work together to acknowledge that racism exists. We must combat and report racism. We must take this very seriously. This has been going on for far too long,” Achneepineskum said. “This is our reality as many Indigenous peoples, especially our women, have come to me with their stories. It’s very disturbing and frightening.”
In June, Statistics Canada released a report in which it said that most police-reported hate incidents were against Indigenous peoples. The reports in Thunder Bay accounted for 29 per cent of all hate-crimes against Indigenous peoples across Canada in 2015. The report also noted that the high hate crime rate was influenced by the introduction of a hate-crime awareness campaign that was launched in 2012. A racism-reporting tool was also launched in June to address incidents of racism in the city.
Achneepineskum said that there is an increase of violence in the city that shouldn’t be minimized.
“There is an escalation of violence in this city, and we must not minimize these horrible situations,” she said. “A young Indigenous mother died today, and a young girl is without her mother. This should not happen,” Achneepineskum said. “What do you say to a young girl that loses her mother? I’m very heartbroken and will be supporting the family.”
Kentner was laid to rest on July 12 at Sunset Memorial Gardens in Thunder Bay.