A man convicted of manslaughter in the 2017 death of an Indigenous woman after she was struck by a trailer hitch from a moving vehicle was sentenced Monday to eight years in prison in Thunder Bay, Ont.
Brayden Bushby was convicted last December in the death of Barbara Kentner, 34, who was from Wabigoon Lake First Nation. His sentencing hearing was in February.
"What you did, Mr. Bushby, was not brave. It was not manly. It was not impressive," Ontario Superior Court Justice Helen Pierce said in giving reasons for the eight-year prison term.
"It did not make our community a better place. Something happens when you attack the dignity of another person — you lose your own in the process. That's 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 you could just drive away."
Crown lawyers had been seeking a sentence of eight to 12 years, while defence counsel had instead been looking for a four-year sentence. The sentencing had been put over in May due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
"We all have an interest in this sentence and the message it sends," Pierce said at the start of the sentencing hearing. "There will be those who think that this sentence is not harsh enough. Others will think it is too harsh. While the criminal law is not a forum to address the wrongs in society, it is a means of emphasizing the values of the community."
Victim 'a light in the darkness'
Bushby, then 18, was a passenger in the vehicle driving along McKenzie Street on the city's south side during the early morning of Jan. 29, 2017. Bushby, who was drinking heavily, had said he wanted to drive around and yell at sex-trade workers.
Kentner and her sister were walking down the residential street when the metal trailer hitch was thrown, striking her in the abdomen.
Evidence presented during the trial revealed Bushby exclaimed he "got one" after the trailer hitch hit Kentner.
She underwent surgery and died on July 4, 2017. A forensic pathologist testified the injuries hastened her death.
"Ms. Kentner was much loved and is much missed," said Pierce. "Cheryl Kentner described her sister, Barbara, as a light in the darkness. A beautiful light. Someone she could count on. The family missed hearing her voice, they miss her physical presence and the joy she brought to their lives."
Bushby, who admitted to throwing the trailer hitch, pleaded guilty to aggravated assault at the start of the trial.
Tossing items 'disgusting activity'
Crown lawyers had argued Bushby's actions were motivated by prejudice and bias against women, while the defence insisted Bushby did not know at the time that the Kentner sisters were women.
Pierce, who characterized the incident as a "drive-by attack," sided with the Crown and pointed to Bushby wanting to harass female members of the sex trade and his exultance after the trailer hitch struck Kentner.
"By doing so, you have minimized women, disrespected them and made them feel unsafe. Your actions are an affront to all women," Pierce said.
"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."
While there's no minimum sentence for manslaughter, penalties can vary from probation to life in prison.
Pierce acknowledged mitigating factors, specifically Bushby's age and that he was a first-time offender, in giving him an eight-year term.
The sentence also subjects Bushby to:
- A DNA order.
- A 10-year weapons prohibition after his release.
- An order that he not communicate directly or indirectly with members of the Kentner family.
At the conclusion of the sentencing hearing, Pierce granted a request from defence lawyer George Joseph for Bushby to be able to hug his family before being taken into custody.
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