An immigration lawyer representing Jaskirat Singh Sidhu, the driver who caused the deadly Humboldt Broncos bus crash, says his client is fighting to stay in Canada.
In January 2019, Sidhu pleaded guilty to 29 counts of dangerous driving causing death or bodily injury. In court, he admitted he failed to stop his semi-trailer truck at a highway intersection on April 6, 2018. The resulting crash with a bus carrying the Broncos junior hockey team to a playoff game killed 16 people and injured 13 others. In March 2019, Sidhu was sentenced to eight years in prison.
Singh is a permanent resident of Canada. Under federal law, a permanent resident convicted of a crime that holds a maximum sentence of at least 10 years may be deported after serving their sentence.
However, Sidhu’s lawyer, Michael Greene is trying to make sure that doesn’t happen. He said Sidhu was very remorseful and has no criminal background.
“He couldn’t be more sorry,” said Greene, who has begun compiling his case, as well as letters of support to give to an immigration officer, who will ultimately determine the case.
“He’s clearly not the kind of guy that is going to commit another offence. So put all together, it’s going to be an extremely difficult decision for an officer to make.”
A collision report found Sidhu didn’t brake before the crash at the intersection of Highway 335 and 35.
In her sentencing decision, Judge Inez Cardinal said Sidhu had many chances to stop before the collision. She also said it was inconceivable he missed the intersection’s many large signs, including flashing lights.
However, when it comes to Sidhu’s potential deportation, Greene said there are a number of factors weighing in his client’s favour.
He said the crime wasn’t intentional and that many people have accidentally driven through traffic signals in the past, sometimes with fatal consequences.
“The judge imposed the highest sentence by a hundred-fold,” Greene said. “It’s twice as high as any sentence ever given for this offence.”
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The Morning Edition – Sask7:06Should the semi driver in the Humboldt Broncos crash be deported from Canada?
Michelle Straschnitzki, whose son Ryan was paralyzed from the chest down in the crash, said she has sympathy for Sidhu’s family living in Canada.
But she doesn’t think he deserves to be able to stay and carry on with a normal life after his sentence ends.
“I would argue that there’s 29 people who don’t get to have a fresh, new life and because of his negligence — which is putting it lightly — it doesn’t really lend itself to that,” Straschnitzki told The Canadian Press.
“I’m sorry. I feel terrible for his family and I don’t think he should be punished for the rest of his life, but I also don’t think he should be rewarded for his deeds.”
Scott Thomas’s son, Evan, was one of the Broncos players killed. He forgave Sidhu in court and said he’s kept in touch with Sidhu’s wife while her husband has been in prison.
“He’s a broken man and I don’t think … any more purpose will be served by sending him away from the country, where he clearly wants to be with his wife,” Thomas said.
“I don’t know specifically what he’s been through in prison, but I know he’s in a prison in his mind for sure. I know he struggles with this every day and he’ll continue to no matter where he is.”
Greene also brought up the case of Saskatchewan Premier Scott Moe, who failed to stop at a rural intersection and hit another vehicle, killing 39-year-old Joanne Balog. Moe was given a ticket for driving without due care and attention.
“And it is odd, because, you know, there have been prominent people who have driven through stop signs and people have died,” he said.
“I think your own premier had that offence, and luckily he didn’t hit a bus full of children. But somebody died, and that kind of thing happens.”
There are a lot of people who believe in forgiveness. And they also realize that this was a perfect storm of circumstances.– Lawyer Michael Greene
Greene acknowledged the scale of the crash and the enormous outpouring of grief that followed.
However, he believes Sidhu’s sentence was very high.
“I think he got punished for the consequences,” he said.
“A lot of people thought it was too much, but he chose not to appeal it. A lot of people thought he could successfully appeal (the sentence), but he chose not to even challenge that.”
Sidhu grew up on a farm in India and followed his girlfriend to Canada when she immigrated here in 2013. He lived in Calgary and had been hired by a Calgary-based trucking company just three weeks before the crash.
“I understand that for some people, there will never be enough of a punishment and there just can never be,” Greene said.
“But there are a lot of people who believe in forgiveness. And they also realize that this was a perfect storm of circumstances where his carelessness was certainly a determinative factor.”
Greene expects a ruling to be made sometime in early 2021.