Last week, Jaskirat Singh Sidhu (“Sidhu”) was sentenced to eight years in prison after pleading guilty in January to 16 counts of dangerous driving causing death and 13 counts of dangerous driving causing bodily harm.
Sidhu was the semi-truck driver involved in the Humboldt Broncos bus crash in rural Saskatchewan on April 6, 2018.
The accident occurred when Sidhu drove through a stop sign and collided with a bus carrying the Humboldt Broncos junior hockey team that was heading to a playoff game. Sidhu was traveling between 86 and 96 km/h. He passed four signs warning him about the upcoming intersection that had an oversized stop sign with a flashing light.
A forensic collision report found that Sidhu did not brake at the intersection of Highway 335 and 35 before colliding with the bus. The report also indicated that Sidhu’s view of the intersection was not impeded by any environmental factors, such as trees or sunlight.
At the conclusion of the four day sentencing hearing, Sidhu apologized to his victims and took full responsibility for the crash. He stated that the accident occurred due to his inexperience as a truck driver.
More than 90 victim impact statements were presented to the court by friends and families of the victims and hours of arguments were made by lawyers. The victim statements were emotional with some families stating that they were able to forgive Sidhu, while others admitted that they would never be able to forgive him for his role in the accident.
Sidhu’s lawyer explained that he had been hired by a small Calgary trucking company three weeks prior to the accident. He spent two weeks with another trucker and then began driving on his own. Sidhu was apparently distracted by a tarp flapping on the trailer of the truck which resulted in his missing the four warning signs regarding the upcoming intersection. His lawyer advised the court that sentencing in cases of dangerous driving ranged from 18 months to 4 ½ years.
The Crown prosecutor argued that Sidhu had enough time to slow down and stop and described Sidhu’s driving as entering the intersection “like a rocket”. He argued that Sidhu should receive a 10-year prison sentence, followed by a 10-year driving ban.
Judge Inez Cardinal provided her sentencing decision in a makeshift courthouse at the Kerry Vickar Centre. The victim’s family and friends wore Broncos jerseys with the last names of their loved ones on the back. Judge Cardinal began handing down her sentencing decision by reading the names of each of the victims aloud. She described the victims as:
…gifted athletes, community leaders, and team builders with hopes and dreams for the future…Some were dreaming of having a family, while others were already raising their families.
Judge Cardinal recognized that there has been no similar case in Saskatchewan or Canada given the number of fatalities and injuries. She acknowledged that Sidhu’s remorse and guilty plea spared the victims’ families a lengthy trial and saved him from a maximum sentence of 14 years.
Judge Cardinal stated:
It is baffling, and incomprehensible, that a professional driver, even one with little experience, could miss so many markers over such a long distance. His inattention displays risky behaviour given he saw the signs but they did not register because he continued to focus on the trailers behind him.
Sidhu was sentenced to eight years for each count of causing death, and five years for each count of dangerous driving causing bodily harm. The sentences are to be served concurrently as they all arise from the same circumstances, which means the sentences will be served simultaneously. Sidhu was also given a 10-year driving ban, a firearms prohibition, and is required to provide bodily samples for the purpose of DNA analysis.
WHAT COMES NEXT?
Sidhu grew up in India and came to Canada in 2013. He is a permanent resident, not a Canadian citizen. As a result of his conviction and sentence, Sidhu will face deportation to India.
Under Canada’s federal law, permanent residents cannot remain in Canada if they commit a crime for which the maximum sentence is at least 10 years or their jail sentence is more than six months.
As a result of this accident, the Saskatchewan government has undertaken to make changes to the intersection where the crash occurred, promising to add rumble strips and better signage. The government has also promised to put millions of dollars into improvements at other intersections.
Although there is mandatory training for semi-truck drivers in Ontario, training for semi-truck drivers in Saskatchewan only became mandatory last week. Training for drivers across the rest of the country will also become mandatory in 2020.
If you are facing a dangerous driving charge or need to speak with an experienced criminal defence lawyer about criminal charges laid against you or your legal rights, please contact Affleck & Barrison LLP online or at 905-404-1947. We offer a free consultation and are available to help you 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. We are available when you need us most.