Brayden Bushby, convicted of manslaughter in the 2017 death of Barbara Kentner of Wabigoon Lake Ojibway Nation, will be sentenced this morning in Thunder Bay, Ont.
Bushby threw a metal trailer hitch from a moving car, striking the 33-year-old Indigenous mother in the abdomen while she was on an evening walk with her sister in a residential neighbourhood.
Kentner died several months later.
The case has been closely followed across Canada, according to Christa Big Canoe, legal advocacy director for Aboriginal Legal Services.
"[People] want gravity to the circumstances. They want denunciation. They want [the sentence] to say never do this again, never throw things at people in Thunder Bay," said Big Canoe.
"Those actions have real consequences, which include the loss of life."
Bushby was convicted in December and was set for sentencing in May in Ontario Superior Court, but it was delayed due to the pandemic.
Justice Helen Pierce is expected to hand down the sentence Monday starting at 10 a.m. ET.
Lawyers differ on sentencing term
Big Canoe said she expects Pierce to provide a detailed explanation for her decision, especially after she heard several community and victim impact statements during the sentencing hearing in February.
The statements spoke to the deep loss felt by Kentner's family members, and the systemic racism experienced by Indigenous people in Thunder Bay, where there is a history of people throwing objects at Indigenous people from moving vehicles, she said.
Crown lawyers, who asked for a sentence of eight to 12 years in jail, also argued Bushby's actions were motivated by a bias and prejudice toward women. They notably did not argue the actions were motivated by racial prejudice.
Defence lawyers for Bushby said a lengthy sentence would be"too crushing" and suggested, in turn, a four-year term.
Calls for safety for Indigenous women, girls
Kentner's family isn't expressing any specific length of time they'd like to see Bushby behind bars. They want justice for her death and Thunder Bay to be safe for Indigenous people.
Monday's sentencing comes just days after the federal government released its national action plan to end violence against Indigenous women and girls.
Cora McGuire-Cyrette, executive director of the Ontario Native Women's Association, said Kentner's death shows the need for concrete actions to increase their safety.
"What have we done to increase safety for Indigenous women and girls, even at a local level? Is there any additional safety for a woman walking in that area," where Bushby threw the trailer hitch. "Nothing that I see."
McGuire-Cyrette said violence against Indigenous women has become normalized in Canada, and that needs to change.
"No punishment will ever bring back Barbara Kentner or any of the other people that we've lost," she said.
"In the justice system, holding people accountable is the first step in beginning to say that violence against Indigenous women is not acceptable."