Thunder Bay

Man arrested after trailer hitch thrown at First Nations woman

An 18-year-old man has been charged with aggravated assault after a First Nations woman was struck by a trailer hitch thrown from a passing car in Thunder Bay, Ont.

'It shows us we're all strong', student organizer says as about 100 people turn out for solidarity walk

Barbara Kentner, left, was struck by a trailer hitch thrown from a moving car in Thunder Bay, Ont., on Jan. 29. Her sister, Melissa Kentner, right, says police have made an arrest in the case. (Jody Porter/CBC)

An 18-year-old man has been charged with aggravated assault after a First Nations woman was struck by a trailer hitch thrown from a passing car in Thunder Bay, Ont.

Police said the arrest was made on Saturday when the man turned himself in after being notified of the pending charge.

Barbara Kentner, the woman who was hospitalized after being struck by a trailer hitch last week, accepted hugs and greetings from a crowd gathered in her honour on Sunday night.

She made a brief appearance at the event before returning to a warm vehicle as the crowd of about 100 people walked from Patterson Park to the residential neighbourhood where Kentner was struck while walking home on Jan. 29.

The 34-year-old was released from hospital on Saturday, but her sister, Melissa Kentner, told CBC News, Barbara wanted to attend the event learning from the police that they'd made an arrest.

"She's happy, that's why she came out tonight," Melissa Kentner said. "She's happy he is arrested. The other two guys [in the car] are the ones that turned him in, that's what the police said."

Sunday's event was organized by students from the Aboriginal Community Advocacy program at Confederation College after a class discussion about what happened to Kentner.

  "What happened to her was being ignored and we felt like we should show support and raise awareness for her and that's when we thought 'let's do a walk a ceremony and prayer for her,'" said student Cinnamon Kelly.

'I want this to stop'

Kelly said it's common in Thunder Bay for Indigenous people to have things thrown at them from passing cars, along with racial slurs.

"It makes me sad and it upsets me," she said. "I have a seven-year-old daughter. She's being raised here. I'm concerned for her future. I want this to stop."

During an opening speech to the crowd, Kelly's classmate, Nichole Barkman-Lands, made the link between what happened to Kentner and the problem of missing and murdered Indigenous women and girls. 

"We're here to say that violence is not acceptable in our community," Barkman- Lands said. 

She called the assault with the trailer hitch "a truly disgusting act" and went on to characterize it as a hate crime. Melissa Kentner and Nishnawbe Aski Nation Deputy Grand Chief Anna-Betty Achneepineskum have also called it a hate crime.

"The justice system needs to set an example that this is not acceptable," Barkman-Lands said. "We shouldn't have to worry when our daughters, our mothers, our women are walking down the road that they may end up in the hospital or worse, they don't come home at all."

The attendance at the hastily organized event, on a cold winter evening, was heartening, Kelly said.

"It shows us we're strong, all of us being all together," she said.