Seven months after 28-year-old Nicholas Cameron was killed, the Uber driver accused of his death, Abdihared Bishar Mussa, has pleaded guilty to careless driving.
The guilty plea has upset the family of Cameron, a web developer and the late son of broadcaster Bill Cameron, because the charge of careless driving, a Highway Traffic Act offence, carries a maximum $2,000 fine, a driving prohibition, and probation but no jail time.
Mussa was originally charged with dangerous driving causing death and criminal negligence causing death, but those charges were withdrawn.
“In my view, it seems that Mr. Mussa pleaded guilty to careless driving and agreed to take responsibility for what happened in the front seat but not the back seat,” Cheryl Hawkes, Cameron’s mother, told the court in her victim impact statement.
“In the end, the responsibility has been left on the side of the road, and nobody wants to touch it.”
On March 21 at around 3:30 a.m., Cameron was critically injured when he and his girlfriend, Monika Traikov, were on their way to Toronto Pearson International Airport when the Uber they were travelling in was rear-ended on the westbound lanes of the Gardiner Expressway near Royal York Road.
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According to the agreed statement of facts, Mussa’s phone and GPS fell from the mount onto the floor of his 2012 Hyundai Sonata. Mussa pulled his vehicle over, partially in a live lane of traffic, and put the phone back on the mount.
Almost immediately after he put his car into motion, the Uber was struck by a BMW — sending the car Cameron and Traikov were travelling in across four lanes of traffic and crashing into the median several hundred metres away. Cameron suffered a catastrophic neck injury. He died in hospital the following day, having never regained consciousness.
Crown attorney Michael Coristine told the court that Mussa had earlier taken the eastbound Gardiner by mistake. Mussa also advised the couple he knew a shortcut to the airport along Dundas Street West, but the couple told Mussa to get back on the Gardiner.
“It was dark, you’re on a highway in an exit lane and you have big no stop signs all over the highway,” Hawkes said in her victim impact statement.
“You created this situation and my son died.”
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Cameron’s brother-in-law Jason Burns looked at Mussa as he delivered his victim impact statement.
“Bishar, I don’t hate you. I wish you worked somewhere else like Subway and had basic training for your job. You took an easy job because it was safe. You wanted to do a good thing and as it turned out, it was dangerous. And as it turns out, you killed someone we love,” he said.
“Tell Uber in Toronto why they need to reinstate driver training. You can do a thing and help change the laws.”
Burns referred to the fact that back in 2016, the City of Toronto scrapped a mandatory 17-day training course for both taxi and ride-sharing company drivers.
The Crown is asking for the maximum sentence for careless driving: a $2,000 fine, a two-year driving prohibition, and a year of probation. The Crown is also suggesting Mussa complete a driver training safety course and not occupy the front seat of a car, while the defence is suggesting a maximum $400 fine, a year of probation and a remedial driving course.
Cameron’s sister, Rachel Cameron, spoke of how her life is empty and hollow without her youngest brother and how she suffers from anxiety and depression.
“Had you show a fragment of Nick’s respect for the road, Nick would have been alive,” she said.
Before court adjourned, Mussa stood up and gave a brief apology.
“I would like to express my condolences on the loss of your son. I did not know him personally and I believe he was well-loved among you and will be missed,” he said.
The judge reserved his decision calling the consequences of the crash “not intentional but tragic.”
Mussa sprinted out of the courthouse to a waiting car to avoid being videotaped. He sat in the backseat of the car, which had an Uber sticker on the front window. Mussa will be sentenced in December.