Jaskirat Singh Sidhu did a horrible unintended act on April 6, 2018, when he blew through a stop sign killing 16 and injuring 13 Humboldt Bronco hockey team coaches and players.
He was in his third week of work as a commercial driver. That day he had been lost, stuck and then distracted by tarps loose and flapping in the wind.
Likely he was behind schedule and being pressured by the owner.
The accident was catastrophic.
Those surviving will either face lifetime physical disabilities, mental anguish or both. Their parents, families and friends will never forget or recover fully from this tragic senseless loss.
It’s simply a lose-lose-lose situation.
I feel very sorry for all families, but I fear for those such as the Curtis Joseph family, former Edmonton Oiler goaltender, who are unable to forgive.
His wife said, “I will never forgive him.” and Curtis, after hearing the sentence, said, “there’s no number (of years) that would make me happy.”
Forgiveness is the hardest thing to do but all psychologists and religious leaders will tell you it is the most important step for self-healing and getting on with life. Sure Sidhu has life, where many others don’t, but this remorseful young man will forever live his guilt.
Sidhu could never bring back the lives of these young people. All he could do was the right thing after his unintended action caused this horrific tragedy. He cooperated with authorities, he accepted public shaming without ever playing the discrimination card, he took away the prolonged agony of a long-drawn-out trial by pleading guilty, he apologized, he wept and he met with grieving parents who asked to meet with him personally.
The 10-year sentence asked for, by Crown Prosecutor, Thomas Healey, followed by Justice Inez Cardinal’s eight-year prison sentence was shocking in its severity.
Cardinal’s justification for a long sentence was she had to “send a strong message to other drivers”. Sidhu was not committing a criminal act, such as drinking or texting when he drove through the stop sign. He didn’t intentionally go through 29 stop signs to kill and maim 29 people. It was one stop sign, it was unintended and unfortunately, it was tragic.
It’s ludicrous thinking to believe his harsh sentence will deter other drivers from inattention or daydreaming on our roads—Justice Cardinal was simply applying American vengeance, not Canadian justice.
In 2015, Mohinder Singh Saini received a six-year sentence when he drove his transport truck into a construction zone in Ontario killing four people and injuring 11.
He didn’t plead guilty, didn’t show remorse, lied to the police and judge, caused a protracted court case, and by not taking responsibility caused more pain to the grieving families.
The judge gave him, at that time, an unprecedented six-year sentence because he took no responsibility.
Ironically, this new precedent-setting sentence for Sidhu could be more harmful to future grieving families.
Crown prosecutor Healy and Justice Cardinal have sent a clear message to those who accept responsibility (Sidhu) and those who don’t (Saini).
Plead guilty and lose the option to appeal an unusually harsh sentence. Plead not guilty, put families through a protracted trial, express no apology or remorse and retain the option to appeal.
Vengeance sentences may feel good for the moment, but never, ever serve victims or society well.
Rather, Justice Cardinal and the families’ harshest feelings should be towards a system that allowed Sidhu on the roads in the first place and the fact little had been done to deal with an intersection that had killed before.
As local Coun. Brad Schitroth said, “people drive through that intersection (stop sign) all the time.”