Brayden Bushby was sentenced to eight years less one month for time served in pretrial custody in the death of Barbara Kentner on June 7 at the Ontario Superior Court of Justice. Kentner, 34, died five months after Bushby, then 18, struck her with a trailer hitch that he threw at her from a moving vehicle while she was walking with her sister on a street in Thunder Bay in 2017. Bushby was convicted of manslaughter in her death in 2020.
“What you did, Mr. Bushby, was not brave. It was not manly; it was not impressive. It did not make our community a better place,” states Ontario Superior Court Justice Helen Pierce in her Reasons for Sentence. “Something happens when you attack the dignity of another person: you lose your own in the process. That is what happened here. With your trailer hitch, you targeted a vulnerable woman on the street when she could not protect herself. You did it from the safety of a vehicle, so that you could just drive away.”
Deputy Grand Chief Derek Fox says Kentner, a Wabigoon Lake citizen who had lived in Thunder Bay, was much loved and is very much missed.
“Barbara was taken from us far too soon, and no sentence can relieve the anguish her family and friends have experienced,” Fox says. “It is encouraging that Justice Pierce acknowledged the powerful victim impact statements while delivering this sentence, and that she recognized the need to send a strong message of deterrence.”
Fox adds that Pierce highlighted how Bushby targeted a vulnerable, defenceless woman, and that his actions have perpetuated feelings of distrust and insecurity for Indigenous people in Thunder Bay.
“This brutal and senseless attack demonstrates the racism and violence that Indigenous peoples continue to face, not only in Thunder Bay but across the country,” Fox says. “We stand today in solidarity with Barbara’s family and all those who seek to end systemic racism and support equality and justice.”
Coralee McGuire-Cyrette, executive director at Ontario Native Women’s Association, says there can be no true justice for Kentner’s family as her life has been lost.
“No sentencing can ever address the grief from her family and her community and the community as a whole,” McGuire-Cyrette says. “We also have to remember Brayden Bushby was participating in the normalization of violence against Indigenous women, particularly in Thunder Bay. The practice of throwing objects at Indigenous people and Indigenous women here in Thunder Bay is normalized, it’s been acceptable. We have to look at calling for transformational change to address this violence.”
McGuire-Cyrette notes that Bushby appealed his conviction and requested bail within hours of being sentenced by Pierce.
“We are so pleased that the Court of Appeal denied his request for bail,” McGuire-Cyrette says. “We are definitely very happy and pleased that the court denied the bail while he goes through the appeal process.”
Pierce stated in her Reasons for Sentence that Bushby treated the Kentner women like they were disposable and their lives and dignity were not worth his concern.
“When you threw that trailer hitch, the impact was both immediate and far-reaching,” Pierce states. “At the centre of the circle was Barbara Kentner. She was seriously injured. The complications from her injury caused her pain and hastened her death.”
Pierce adds that she concluded that Bushby knew he was throwing the trailer hitch at women and had minimized women, disrespected them and made them feel unsafe.
“Your actions are an affront to all women,” Pierce stated. “The court has also been told that it is a common experience for Indigenous people in Thunder Bay to have objects thrown at them from passing cars: eggs, drinks, bottles, bricks, garbage. You have joined in this disgusting activity. Now we can add trailer hitches to that list. You perpetuated the feeling of distrust and insecurity that Indigenous citizens in the community feel when they are on the streets.
You have confirmed that these assaults continue.”
Kiiwetinoong MPP Sol Mamakwa, NDP critic for Indigenous and Treaty Relations, and Toronto Centre MPP Suze Morrison, NDP critic for Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls Response, stated that the justice system has consistently failed Indigenous people in a press statement.
“This long-standing pattern has normalized violence against Indigenous women and girls and 2SLGBTQIA+ people,” Mamakwa and Morrison stated. “This pattern must be broken. The sentence today is just one part of the long healing process for Barbara Kentner’s family, who are still without their mother and sister. The Kentner family has asked for justice for Barbara, and for Thunder Bay to be safer for Indigenous people. The government of Ontario has a role to play to ensure that call is honoured.”
Mamakwa and Morrison also stated that the provincial government’s Pathways to Safety plan and the federal action plan in response to the National Inquiry into Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls’ findings cannot just sit on the shelf.
“The province must actively work to increase safety for Indigenous women and girls,” they stated. “A sentence for one man is a start, but not an end to Indigenous women and girls being the targets of an epidemic of violence, abuse, taking and killing.”