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Connie Kentner, sister of the late Barbara Kentner, embraces friends and family after exiting the courthouse where Brayden Bushby was found guilty of manslaughter in Kentners death.

DAVID JACKSON/The Globe and Mail

The defence for Brayden Bushby, the man convicted of killing Barbara Kentner in Thunder Bay, says the Crown’s evidence his client’s actions were motivated by hate is going to be a “hotly contested issue” at the sentencing hearing scheduled next week.

Defence lawyer Ryan Green had requested a virtual case conference, which took place on Friday before Justice Helen Pierce, on an “urgent basis.” The defence is taking issue with materials submitted by the Crown because of concerns over its admissibility.

“There’s an evidentiary issue that ought to be settled not during the hearing, but before the hearing,” Mr. Green told Justice Pierce.

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Crown attorney Trevor Jukes told the court that the Crown will be calling a witness who has volunteer experience working with sex-trade workers on the Thunder Bay street where Ms. Kentner was walking when Mr. Bushby hurled a trailer hitch at the 34-year-old Anishinaabe woman and her sister in January, 2017.

The Crown said hearing from a witness who has experience working on the same street where Ms. Kentner was injured is relevant and should be admissible. But Mr. Green told the court he was concerned the statement from that witness had the potential to be contentious or lead to evidentiary issues with the sentencing hearing only days away.

Mr. Bushby was found guilty of manslaughter last December after the Crown reduced his charge from second-degree murder. At his trial in November, the court heard how Mr. Bushby spent the day of the attack ice fishing and drinking before cruising in a friend’s car with two other passengers, telling his friends he wanted to “yell at hookers.”

As they drove in the city’s south side, Mr. Bushby, who was in the front passenger seat, climbed out the car window and threw a trailer hitch at Ms. Kentner and her sister Melissa, who were walking down McKenzie Street. The trailer hitch struck Ms. Kentner in the stomach, rupturing her small intestine. She required emergency surgery and died six months later.

Under Section 718.2 of the Criminal Code, a court can hear “evidence that the offence was motivated by bias, prejudice or hate based on race, national or ethnic origin, language, colour, religion, sex, age, mental or physical disability, sexual orientation or gender identity or expression, or on any other similar factor.”

Justice Pierce said the hearing would continue as scheduled on Feb. 17 and booked an extra day to hear arguments from the defence and Crown over any evidentiary issues raised. The hearing will be held at the Thunder Bay courthouse, which recently reopened after a fire shut it down last year.

Justice Pierce will also hear six victim impact statements and three community impact statements from the Ontario Native Women’s Association, that will be presented by assistant Crown attorney Andrew Sadler. The Nokiwin Tribal Council will read their own statements to the court, and lawyer Donald Worme will present statements from the Indigenous Bar Association.

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