Humboldt driver speaks out, decision on deportation expected imminently

Jaskirat Sidhu says, "I'm not the person who did this purposely or intentionally. I know people have lost their lives and I don't want to hide."

Angelo Isidorou Vancouver British Columbia

The driver responsible for killing 16 people and injuring 13 others is speaking out in a CTV exclusive interview. Known to most as the "Humboldt driver," Jaskirat Sidhu is a 32-year-old man hired to transport a giant load of peat moss on tandem trailers across Saskatchewan.

Unfamiliar with rural roads, Sidhu struggled to trek across the province. His tires would often get stuck in the snow, and his tarps cam lose, making him fear the possibility of losing the load.

The distraction of his load made him check his rear-view mirror while speeding towards an intersection. He missed a stop sign, collided with a chartered bus carrying the Humboldt Broncos hockey club on April 6, 2018.

Their deaths caused national mourning, leading to Sidhu being charged with 16 counts of dangerous driving causing death and 13 counts of dangerous driving causing bodily harm. He pleaded guilty to every single charge and offered no defence.

Sidhu received a sentence of eight years in prison. Until recently, he has been in medium security, but in August was transferred to minimum security at the Bowden Institution, 100 kilometres north of Calgary.

"My parents taught me if you ever do something wrong, accept it. And taking [the Humboldt families] through a lengthy process was definitely going to hurt them more, not less."

Despite Sidhu not offering defence in his trial, he is now fighting for the right to stay in Canada. "There is no point running away from things. I can try to make things better. Definitely, I owe this country." Sidhu is not a Canadian citizen but a permanent resident, subject to deportation.

"I'm not the person who did this purposely or intentionally. I know people have lost their lives, and I don't want to hide. All I can do is stand in front of them and hold my hands and say, sorry."

Just three months before the horrifying collision, Jaskirat and his then-girlfriend Tanvir Mann became husband and wife in a fairy-tale wedding back in India.

They returned to Canada, where Mann had received entry into a dental hygienist program in Toronto. Sidhu picked up a second job to support Mann going back to school.

Sidhu took on trucking upon the recommendation of a friend. He completed a one-week training course and drove supervised for two weeks.

April 6 was among his first solo long-haul jobs.

"Sometimes I sit, and I hear the kids crying, the children crying, and I see all of the devastated pictures in my mind," said Mann. "And people are rushing, the firefighters, all of the first responders. Those things, they're still with me."

Tearfully, she relived the phone call that changed her life: "He's in a very bad accident. The word 'bad' broke me. I just knew that my life turned upside down right at that moment. He was crying. I was crying. He told me that there is a big loss. And he told me that he made a big mistake."

She added that she detested her husband driving big rigs.

While Sidhu didn't mount a defence at his criminal trial, he is fighting now for the right to stay in Canada.

Sidhu's immigration lawyer Michael Green said, "There's so much tragedy to go around. There's tragedy above all for the victims' families and the survivors. But there's also another tragedy, and that's Jaskirat and his wife, Tanvir."

Green submitted a 415-page binder in January outlining why Sidhu should not be deported. He cited his extreme level of remorse, lack of criminal history, low risk to re-offend, and the fact that neither drugs, alcohol, nor excessive speed as factors in the collision.

Also attached were hundreds of letters from the public issuing support for Sidhu. Among them were letters from three Humboldt families, including the parents of Evan Thomas, who died in the crash.

Scott and Laurie Thomas not only forgave Sidhu but are actively working to keep him in Canada.

"We sent some letters to his lawyer saying our family doesn't think that he needs to be deported. That doesn't need to be the necessary conclusion to how this all ends."

Their anger is not directed at the man who caused their son's death but at the industry that put him behind the wheel. There are ongoing concerns and a potentially deadly lack of oversight of truck driver training schools three years after the tragedy.

However, some Humboldt families support his deportation, with the odds of Sidhu remaining in Canda, not in his favour.

"There is no point running away from things," he said. "I can try to make things better. Definitely, I owe this country."

Sidhu is a permanent resident, and under immigration rules, anyone convicted of a crime carrying a sentence greater than six months is subject to deportation.

If Sidhu is deported, Mann said she would return to India as well.

"We definitely want to live in Canada because Canada is our home now. But if he's not here, I wouldn't be able to live here. I will have to follow him back," she said.

Placing his hand to his heart, Sidhu said: "I'm not the person who did this purposely or intentionally. I know people have lost their lives, and I don't want to hide. All I can do is stand in front of them and hold my hands and say, sorry."

A decision on whether to deport Sidhu is expected imminently.


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