Thunder Bay

Change in charges against accused in Thunder Bay trailer hitch incident sparks outrage, letter campaign

An Indigenous writer and activist says she was 'outraged' to learn of a change in charges against the man accused of throwing a trailer hitch at a First Nations woman in Thunder Bay, Ont., three years ago.

Riley Yesno is encouraging those who share her concerns to write to officials

Riley Yesno says she was shocked and upset by news that charges against a man accused of throwing a trailer hitch at an Indigenous woman in Thunder Bay, Ont. three years ago had been changed. (Submitted by Riley Yesno)
The charge filed against the man accused of throwing a trailer hitch at an Indigenous woman in Thunder Bay three years ago is being downgraded from second-degree murder, to manslaughter. We'll meet an Indigenous rights activist from northwestern Ontario who says she was outraged by that news. And we'll find out how she's encouraging others to express their concern 8:18

An Indigenous writer and activist says she was "outraged" to learn of a change in charges against the man accused of throwing a trailer hitch at a First Nations woman in Thunder Bay, Ont., three years ago. 

Last week, the Crown filed a new indictment against Brayden Bushby, who had been charged with second-degree murder in the death of Barbara Kentner. Bushby will now stand trial for manslaughter and aggravated assault. 

"I was really upset, you know, very emotional about it" said Riley Yesno, who is from Eabametoong First Nation in northwestern Ontario, but grew up in Thunder Bay.

"Maybe I shouldn't have been, but I was also shocked."

The charges stem from a January 2017 incident, in which a trailer hitch thrown from a passing vehicle struck Kentner. She died less than six months later. 

It was an incident that was deeply disturbing, Yesno said, "especially, you know, being an Indigenous woman growing up in Thunder Bay … seeing how Barbara Kentner could so easily be myself or my family, or any other person in my community."

Yesno said when she heard about the downgraded charges she expressed her concern on social media.  

"Very quickly I had people reach out to me and say 'is there somebody I can call about this?'"

Motivated by the public response, she then created letter templates to make it easier for people to send emails to officials, including the crown attorney and the justice minister, expressing concern about the lesser charges. 

The letter-writing templates were published on Saturday, she said, and by Monday the templates had been accessed over 1,000 times. 

"It's really mobilized, and I think speaks to how much people in Thunder Bay feel the same way about the situation," she stated. 

"This is a story that's not only just the individual court case. It's so deeply tied up with these huge legacies of colonialism and racism in the justice system," she said.

Yesno added that she's heartened by the level of public engagement in the case, and hopes it will continue.

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