Opinion: Hopefully a guilty plea can help with healing

It hasn’t been an easy nine months for the people of Humboldt, or for those in the many communities directly affected by the Humboldt Broncos bus crash.

They have been forced to endure hardship and sorrow since April 6, when 16 people were killed and 13 more were injured, many of them seriously, after a semi-trailer unit collided with the Broncos team bus. The outpouring of support from around the world for the Broncos has been touching, and has certainly helped the families of the victims, as they have coped with their new normal.

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Forgiveness has not, and could not, been easy for those victims. And you can’t blame them for. Many are still angry, and haven’t been able to forgive. 

But there have been those moments that have helped bring healing. One of them came earlier this week, when Jaskirat Singh Sidhu, the driver of the truck in the accident, pleaded guilty to 29 counts of dangerous driving, 16 for causing death.

Sidhu said he didn’t want the case to go to trial, which would have undoubtedly caused more anguish to the survivors, and the family and friends of the victims.

Regardless of whether his ultimate intentions were noble by thinking of the victims, or if self-preservation was a factor, since a guilty plea could result in a lighter sentence, we should be glad that he has taken responsibility for his actions.

There is still the hurdle of sentencing remaining, when the victims of the bus crash will get to look at Sidhu and tell him how his actions have changed so many lives. That will be emotional as well, but it won’t be the same as a trial.

We have to remember that Sidhu isn’t a monster, or a psychopath. He’s a working person who made a horrible mistake. He’ll need to be punished accordingly.

We’ve heard families of some victims say they aren’t concerned about the sentence Sidhu will receive, while others have said they hope he receives a lengthy prison sentence.

Many not directly connected with the case hope he goes to prison for a long time, too.

We likely haven’t seen a case like this in Canadian judicial history. It’s going to be a nightmare for the judge who has to determine Sidhu’s sentence.

I can’t imagine what it’s been like for the families of those affected by the accident over the past nine months. Nor can I imagine what it’s been like for some of the other people connected to the team and the accident in some way.

That would include the club’s staff members and volunteer executive, who have gone through difficult times in the past nine months. There are those involved with dividing the money that was donated; they had to agonize over where the money would go, and the scrutiny involved with their decisions. After all, a lot of people gave so much money to the Broncos, and they want to see the money go where they see fit.

And then you have those who have had to spend a lot of time dealing with the aftermath of the story, whether it be the mayor, social workers, healthcare workers, first responders and more.  

Nobody should have been surprised when the club’s former president resigned in the summer. He was a volunteer, not a paid employee, and at times serving as the president of the Broncos must have felt like a full-time job.

Those of us in Estevan felt the pain of the bus crash. The two coaches killed in the crash – head coach/general manager Darcy Haugan and assistant coach Mark Cross – played hockey here. Haugan also spent 2 1/2 seasons coaching here. Both still had a lot of friends in the Estevan area, even though it had been years since they left.

And there were local residents in the tight-knit community of hockey who knew someone who died or was injured in the bus crash.

At the same time, the pain that many of us felt as a community after the crash is nothing compared to what others connected to the victims have felt in the past nine months.

While the guilty plea by the truck driver has helped some as they cope with the changes in their lives, a lot of that healing can be undone if the truck driver receives a light sentence. A guilty plea will likely result in a lighter jail sentence. We don’t know how much lighter that sentence will be.

A common complaint we hear is regarding the length of time a person will spend in jail for their crimes, particularly when it comes to crimes against children and youths, or those crimes that result in the loss of life of the victim.

There are a lot of people who would like to see Sidhu spend the rest of his life in prison. I can almost assure you that it won’t happen.

But if he only gets a couple of years in prison, there will be a lot of furious people, claiming that it’s another example of a justice system that is woefully inadequate, and failing the victims.

© Copyright Estevan Mercury


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