Provincial court Judge Inez Cardinal sentenced Sidhu to eight years in prison on Friday, nearly a year after 16 people were killed and 13 others injured in the rural Saskatchewan crash.
In her decision, Cardinal said she found it “baffling and incomprehensible” that Sidhu could miss several markers before driving through a stop sign, and colliding with the hockey team’s van.
“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,” she said.
“I find Mr. Sidhu’s moral blameworthiness to be high, especially considering his prolonged inattentiveness while operating a large, loaded semi and the tragic consequences that flowed from his actions.”
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Sidhu had pleaded guilty in January to 16 counts of dangerous driving causing death and 13 counts of dangerous driving causing bodily harm. The crown had sought a 10-year sentence.
Sidhu was sentenced to eight years for each count of causing death, and five years for each count of bodily harm. The sentences are to be served concurrently.
Cardinal opted to impose concurrent sentences because all of the offences arose out of the same circumstances, she said in her sentencing decision.
“If I were to order Mr. Sidhu to serve even short periods of incarceration consecutive to each other, it would not send the same message as a single, lengthy sentence, and would otherwise result in an unduly long and harsh sentence given the number of counts in the information.”
Cardinal said that prior to Sidhu’s sentencing, the strongest penalty ever handed down on similar charges was six years.
The most significant aggravating factor in Sidhu’s case was the impact on the victims, Cardinal said.
“The devastating impact this collision and its aftermath had on the survivors and the family and friends of those on the bus simply cannot be measured,” she said.
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She said Sidhu’s actions were not a “momentary lapse” but a prolonged period of inattention, saying he missed five highway signs including a stop sign, and had “ample time” to stop and avoid the collision.
“Yet, he did not brake, reduce his speed or take any evasive action.”
While he wasn’t speeding, Sidhu’s speed was excessive given his proximity to the intersection, she said.
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She said a mitigating factor was his guilty pleas, which spared the survivors and their families the pain of a trial.
“In my opinion, this moves Mr. Sidhu’s sentence out of the range of the maximum sentence for these offences.”
Other factors included his apology to the families, his clean criminal and driving records and the fact that he wasn’t impaired during the crash.
The judge also acknowledged that Sidhu, a permanent resident of Canada, faces possible deportation over his conviction.
— With files from Ryan Kessler, Global News