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Halifax holds vigil for Thunder Bay’s Barbara Kentner as killer convicted of manslaughter

Photo Sakura Saunders / Facebook

KJIPUKTUK (Halifax) – More than 30 people gathered in a candle-lit vigil tonight in Halifax’s Victoria Park to demand justice for Barbara Kentner, an Indigenous woman murdered in Thunder Bay, Ont. in January 2017.

Word had just arrived from Thunder Bay, that Kentner’s killer – Brayden Bushby – had been convicted in court Monday of manslaughter.   Sentencing will take place in February.

Larry Haiven, on the steering committee of Equity Watch Nova Scotia, was emcee for the event.  He hooked up participants at the rally with Ma-nee Chocaby, an Ojibwe-Cree writer, artist and activist from Thunder Bay.  Over the phone, and through loudspeakers to the Halifax crowd, Chocaby gave details about the case, and what her organization, Not One More Death, is doing to fight racism in her city.  Another person who was patched in by phone was Adar Charlton, a post-doctoral fellow at the University of Manitoba who also lives in Thunder Bay.  She too is also part of Not One More Death. 

At the Halifax vigil,  Darlene Gilbert, a Mi’kmaw activist addressed the crowd.  Three women drummers attended and played the Strong Woman Song.

In January 2017, Kentner, 34, and her sister Melissa were walking along a city street in Thunder Bay, when an 18 year old white settler threw a 20 lb. steel trailer hitch out the car window.  After it hit Kentner in the stomach, and she doubled over in pain, he yelled, “I got one.”  Kentner died five months later, after bowel surgery, and a long hospital stay. 

The white settler, Brayden Bushby, was travelling in a car with two friends.  Bushby had been ice-fishing and drinking much of the day.  Blocks before the attack, Bushby had asked the driver to stop the car so he could pick up a trailer hitch which was lying by the side of the road. 

Bushby was the only one of the three young men in the car to be arrested and charged.  Initially he admitted to the charge of aggravated assault, and has been out on bail for nearly four years.  The original charge of second degree murder was downgraded to manslaughter, for which he was convicted today. 

Thunder Bay and it has been dubbed the most racist city in Canada.  Seven Fallen Feathers: Racism, Death, and Hard Truths in a Northern City,  a 2017 award-winning book by Anishinaabe journalist Tanya Talaga, became a national bestseller.  It details the deaths since 2000 of 7  Indigenous students — all in their teens —  who were drowned in the waterways that run through Thunder Bay.  No one has ever been charged in connection with their deaths.

The racism and murders of Indigenous people at the hands white settlers is also the subject of an excellent Canadaland podcast series called Thunder Bay, featuring Anishinaabe writer and comedian Ryan McMahon.  The second podcast series now available is Return to Thunder Bay.  Max Haiven, an academic and activist based in Thunder Bay, wrote an expose about the police and the powerful called  The Colonial Secrets of Thunder Bay.

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Judy Haiven is on the steering committee of Equity Watch, a Halifax-based organization which fights bullying, racism and discrimination in the workplace. You can reach her at equitywatchns@gmail.com

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