The Parole Board of Canada has granted the trucker who caused the deadly Humboldt Broncos bus crash day parole for six months.
Following an emotional, seven-hour hearing at Bowden Institution on Wednesday, the two-member board panel said Jaskirat Singh Sidhu will get full parole after those six months if he follows all conditions, including no contact with the families of the victims.
Sidhu was sentenced to eight years after he pleaded guilty to dangerous driving charges for the 2018 crash that killed 16 and injured 13.
Sidhu went through a stop sign at a rural Saskatchewan intersection and drove into the path of the junior hockey team’s bus as it was on its way to a playoff game.
Family members of four of the Humboldt victims addressed the board, asking that they deny parole for Sidhu.
“Where is the faith where we hold people accountable to our laws? I’ve lost all faith in justice in our country to ensure we are safe on the roads,” said Shauna Nordstrom, whose son Logan Hunter died in the crash.
She had little sympathy for Sidhu and his wife, who is also from India.
“This couple wanted to start a life together, but if our rules are broken, there are consequences and your consequence is serving your sentence and then deportation. You really messed up your one chance,” she said.
“My son did not get a chance and we are serving a life sentence.”
The hearing also heard from Andrea Joseph, her husband and daughter, who is getting married on the weekend.
Joseph said she has to relive every moment of the day when Sidhu took the life of her son Jaxon. She said Sidhu’s actions were that of a “very selfish human being.”
“I want you to know I have not stopped crying for my baby boy. I have not stopped whispering good night to my baby boy and hope he will come and visit me in my dreams,” she said, wiping away tears.
“Please do not grant this man day parole. It would crumple my heart, my family’s hearts and Canadians’ hearts who have children and want their children protected.”
Russ Herold, who lost his son Adam, said the thought of Sidhu being released sickens him.
“The thought of Mr. Sidhu out on parole this soon is disappointing and further hurts our healing process. My son had no choice,” he said.
“He was an innocent passenger on a bus, going to his hockey game, minding his own business.”
The panel grilled Sidhu for three hours Wednesday afternoon asking about inconsistencies in some of his initial statements, including telling his boss he was distracted by a flapping tarp and then explaining to RCMP that he had the sun in his eyes.
The panel chair also questioned why Sidhu missed a number of warnings about a stop sign, why he didn’t call 911 or help with the victims after the crash.
“There was ample opportunity for you to respond to do something. Why didn’t you go and help?” she asked.
“I didn’t know what to do when I saw blood, I saw people on the ground. I heard people crying. I just froze,” Sidhu replied.
Sidhu apologized to the families after their victim impact statements.
“I want the parole board to know that what I did was very horrible, destroyed so many families’ lives. I deeply hurt every one of them. I destroyed their dreams, destroyed their future and now I have given them unbearable pain,” Sidhu said.
“I’m sorry for the pain that I have caused. I’m sorry for destroying their lives. I’m sorry for not being careful that day.”
He said he never wanted to hurt anyone or have it happen to anyone.
Following the decision, the family of Broncos player and crash victim Logan Boulet said they were disappointed but were focused on their work advocating for organ donations and transplants, including the annual Green Shirt Day.
“We have no feelings for Mr. Sidhu and what he wants and feels he deserves,” the family said in a statement to Global News. “We want our Logan back, but we cannot have this.
“We will continue to focus our energy on things we can control and not on things that we cannot.”
Scott Thomas, father of Broncos forward Evan Thomas who was killed in the crash, issued the following statement about Sidhu’s parole.
“We have said right from the day Mr. Sidhu entered his guilty to plea in Melfort that we did not care if his sentence was one day, 10 years or the rest of his life. We still feel that way. Our family has moved forward in our efforts to remember and celebrate our son and brother Evan’s life and legacy. The situation surrounding Mr. Sidhu’s penalty and release is no longer an issue that our family concerns itself with. We would like to extend our love to the Broncos family and wish them the best in their grief journey.”
The Canada Border Services Agency recommended in March that Sidhu be handed over to the Immigration and Refugee Board to decide if he should be deported back to India.
His lawyer is seeking to argue against deportation in Federal Court.