Jaskirat Sidhu, the ‘Humboldt driver’, speaks out

BOWDEN INSTITUTION, ALTA. – His name is Jaskirat Sidhu. Most people only know him as “The Humboldt Driver”.

The 32-year-old is wearing a blue pullover as he is led into a small room and sits in front of the camera. He pulls off his face mask and takes a deep breath before beginning his first ever TV interview. The guard who led him to his seat and the metal bars on the windows provide the only clues the interview takes place from inside a prison.

Within an hour and a half, Sidhu first answers most questions with an apology: “I’m so sorry for the pain I caused because it was my fault. And the pain I regret every day … seeing them every day in my dreams … to lose their children, to lose their life partner, to lose their brother and sister. And it happened because of me. “

On April 6, 2018, Sidhu was tasked with transporting a huge amount of peat moss on tandem trailers, across Saskatchewan in unknown rural areas. He had challenges from the beginning. First, his trailers got stuck in the snow and he had to find a trailer. Then his tarpaulins came loose, and he feared losing his load, and at last, at. 17, while checking his rearview mirror to see if his straps were solid, he missed a stop sign. A chartered bus carrying the Humboldt Broncos hockey club approached the intersection and could not stop in time. The two vehicles collided and killed 16 people and injured 13 others in the bus. Canada threw itself into mourning.

After weeks of investigation, the RCMP charged Sidhu with 16 counts of dangerous driving causing death and 13 counts of dangerous driving causing bodily injury. He pleaded guilty to every charge. He did not offer a defense. He did not try to appeal.

“My parents taught me that if you ever do something wrong, accept it. And take [the Humboldt families] through a long process would definitely harm them more, not less. “

Sidhu comes from a middle class farming family in India. He immigrated to Canada in 2014 with a trade education. His then girlfriend Tanvir Mann arrived in this country the year before after completing a nursing degree in India.

Jaskirat Sidhu exam

Mann sat in his small apartment in Calgary and said they were living the Canadian dream: “We were slowly building our future. He worked in a liquor store and I worked for Tim Hortons part time. We were trying to save some money for higher education. “

Just three months before the terrible collision, Husband and Jaskirat became husband and wife in an adventurous wedding back in India.

They did not take a honeymoon and returned to Canada, where Mann had been admitted to a dental hygiene program in Toronto. Sidhu picked up another job to support Mann by going back to school. A friend suggested trucking, and Sidhu completed a one-week course. He then drove under supervision for two weeks. When Sidhu got behind the wheel that April day in 2018, it was one of his first solo long-distance jobs.

“Sometimes I sit and I hear the kids cry, the kids cry, and I see all the broken images in my mind. And people rush, the firefighters, all the first responders. These things, they’re still with me.”

His wife never liked that he ran large rigs. With tears streaming down her face, she relives the phone call that changed her life: “He’s out in a very bad accident. The word ‘bad’ broke me. I just knew my life was turning upside down right at that moment. “He was crying, I was crying. He told me there was a big loss. And he told me he was making a big mistake.”

Jaskirat Sidhu and Tanvir Mann

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

Although Sidhu did not defend his criminal case, he is now fighting. This time, for the right to stay in Canada.

“It’s no use running away from things. I can try to make things better. I certainly owe this country.”

Sidhu is not a Canadian citizen. He is a permanent resident. Under immigration rules, anyone convicted of a crime punishable by more than six months is subject to deportation.

Calgary immigration attorney Michael Green represents Sidhu. In an interview with W5, he said: “There is so much tragedy going on. There is first and foremost tragedy for the families of the victims and the survivors. But there is another tragedy too and that is Jaskirat and his wife Tanvir.”

In January 2021, Green presented a 415-page binder explaining why Sidhu should not be deported, citing his extreme level of remorse, lack of criminal history, low risk of being offended again, and the fact that neither drugs, alcohol nor excessive speed was a factor in collision. Hundreds of letters with public support are also included in the case. Among them are letters from three Humboldt families, including the parents of Evan Thomas, who died in the crash.

Evan Thomas

Scott and Laurie Thomas have not only forgiven Sidhu, they are actively working to keep him in Canada.

“We sent some letters to his lawyer that our family does not think he should be deported. That does not have to be the necessary conclusion on how it 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. A W5 investigation reveals an ongoing and potentially fatal lack of oversight of truck driver training schools three years after the tragedy.

Scott Thomas sees a day when he and Sidhu are standing on a stage together and demanding action.

“If Mr. Sidhu is in Canada and there’s an opportunity … for both of us to talk together about what happened and how we can make a better place out of this, I think there’s an opportunity for “Canada can be better, much more so than sending them home.”

Scott and Laurie Thomas

The odds are not in Sidhu’s favor. Some Humboldt families have spoken in support of his deportation. And it’s incumbent on attorney Michael Green to convince a Canadian Border Services Agency enforcer that he should be allowed to stay.

“This has to be one of the most difficult cases a CBSA officer could ever have, because it’s not clear. Usually you have a really serious offense. It’s easy for them to say ‘goodbye’.” In this case … you have a negligent crime, you have one with a flawless record, well established in Canada, have a bright future. There is also another factor, which is his wife. They had this dream Although he is pretty ruined, he is not only fighting for himself, he is also asking for another chance for his wife. “

When the CBSA officer makes a decision, it is sent to the delegate of the Minister of Immigration, who has the final decision on deportation. Green says the immigration minister can rarely intervene. Since 2001, Canada has removed more than 20,000 people for “serious crime.”

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

“We will definitely live in Canada because Canada is our home now. But if he is not here, I would not be able to live here. I will have to follow him back.”

Jaskirat Sidhu put his hand to his heart and said, “I am not the person who did this on purpose or on purpose. I know people have lost their lives and I do not want to hide. All I can do is to stand before them and hold my hands and say sorry. “

A decision on whether Sidhu will be allowed to stay in Canada is expected immediately.

W5’s study of the truck industry, “The Humboldt Driver” airs Saturday night at 7 p.m. 19 on CTV.

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