Thunder Bay

Acting police chief, city councillors among attendees at funeral for First Nations woman hit by trailer hitch

The death of Barbara Kentner is a wake-up call about the threat posed by racism in Thunder Bay, Ont., says the chair of the city's anti-racism committee.

'Every minority should be looking over their shoulder,' city's anti-racism commitee chair says

A collage of photos of Barbara Kentner greeted guests at her funeral in Thunder Bay on Wednesday. (Jody Porter/CBC)

The death of Barbara Kentner is a wake-up call about the threat posed by racism in Thunder Bay, Ont., says the chair of the city's anti-racism committee. 

A funeral was held for Kentner on Wednesday. The 34-year-old member of Wabigoon Lake First Nation was struck by a trailer hitch thrown from a passing car in Thunder Bay in January.

Her family told CBC News that Kentner never recovered from the injuries she suffered in what they believe was a hate crime.

"She could have been my child, and what I'm praying and hoping is that her death is the straw that will break the camel's back and bring all these senseless acts to an end," said Amina Abu-Bakara, the chair of Thunder Bay's anti-racism and respect committee.

"I love Thunder Bay, but moments like this make you question your sanity and what I am exposing my children to. It really bothers me," she added as tears streamed down her face after the funeral.

'I love Thunder Bay, but moments like this make you question your sanity and what I am exposing my children to,' says anti-racism committee chair Amina Abu-Bakare, outside the funeral for Barbara Kentner. (Jody Porter/CBC)
Kentner's daughter, Serena, 16, pulled a chair up beside her mother's casket, stroking her hand, hugging and kissing her before the funeral began. The sound of her sobbing filled the chapel.

"She was taken from us too soon, we all know that," said one of Kentner's aunts who got up to speak during the open mic portion of the funeral. "It has been really hard on the family."

Two city councillors — Shelby Ch'ng and Linda Rydholm — read scriptures during the service. Coun. Joe Virdiramo was also in attendance, along with acting police chief Sylvie Hauth.

Barbara Kenter's 16-year-old daughter Serena talks to her aunt, Melissa Kentner, before the funeral on Wednesday. (Jody Porter/CBC)
Erin Bottle sang a traditional Anishinaabe death song, bringing emotions to a peak in the tightly packed chapel. The overflow crowd filled the entranceway where there were homemade posters covered in pictures of Kentner, smiling and happy earlier in her life.

Kentner's death constitutes a hate crime — something that must concern everyone in the city, Abu-Bakare said.

"Now it's First Nations or the Indigenous people, then how far will they go?" she said. "Every minority should be looking over their shoulder. We're not all safe in the city."

Acting police chief Sylvie Hauth was among more than 100 people who attended Barbara Kentner's funeral. (Jody Porter/CBC)
More than a week after Kentner's death there is still no word about whether the charges related to the attack will be upgraded. Thunder Bay police said they're waiting on further information from the coroner's office.

Brayden Bushby, 18, was charged with aggravated assault in the case in January.