How the sudden death of an Indigenous woman left a family without justice

Delaney Windigo
APTN National News
Angelia Canzoneri decorated another Christmas tree without her dad this year.

Her father, Leo Buswa, 42, of Whitefish River First Nation was beaten inside his Toronto apartment in August 2010 and died a month later in hospital.

“It was really bad,” said Canzoneri. “It had to have been some type of force to have two skull fractures.”

Blake Paul, an Indigenous man from Moose Factory, Ont., was charged with second-degree murder by Toronto police after officers caught up to him in 2012 hiding out on Eskanosi First Nation in Nova Scotia.

An Indigenous woman living on the streets was the Crown’s star witness to the beating.

But Terra Gardner was reluctant to testify.

“There’s this street code in life on the street that I think most of us don’t quite understand unless we’re there,” said outreach worker, Lorraine Lam. “I think the reality for her is that she worried that if she had to talk about what happened then word would get out that … oh my gosh she might be called a rat.”

Lam said Gardner told police she feared for her life. That she wanted to be protected.

During the preliminary hearing police put her up in a hotel for two nights, but she had to beg fo the second night, according to those close to her at the time.

But that was it.

“She didn’t feel like she had adequate protection,” said Lam. “She was really understanding that there was only so much that could be done, but she definitely wished there was more.”

When the hearing was done, Gardner returned to the streets where she had been getting death threats.

Then the Crown lost its star witness when Gardner was hit by a train, as first reported by APTN National News.

Police ruled it an accident.

“There were definitely people who were like this might have something to do with the case that she was testifying in, but it was almost discarded so quickly and written off as an accident, so I think there’s definitely a lot of discomfort there,” said Lam.

Paul recently took a deal of two years in prison for the lesser charge of manslaughter.

Busway’s daughter believes if Gardner was still alive the outcome would have been different.

For now, Canzoneri feels like she’s been robbed of justice.

“That hurts,” she said. “I feel like the justice system doesn’t work at all. What kind of punishment is that? He murdered my dad. He took my dad away.”

APTN National News reached out to Toronto police several times for comment.

They never responded.

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