Bowden Institute, ALTA. His name is Jaskirat Sidhu. Most people know him as “The Humboldt Driver”.
The 32-year-old wears a blue sweater as he is led into a small room and sits in front of the camera. He removes his facemask and takes a deep breath before starting his first television interview. The guard who took him to his seat and the metal bars on the windows provide the only clue that the interview is conducted from inside the prison.
Over the course of an hour and a half, Sidhu answers most of the questions with an apology first: “I’m so sorry for my pain because it was my fault. And I regret that pain every day… In dreams… Losing your children, losing your life partner, losing your brother and sister. And it happened because of me.”
On April 6, 2018, Sidhu was tasked with transporting a massive load of peat moss on tandem trailers, in Saskatchewan, on unfamiliar rural roads. He had challenges from the beginning. First, his trailer got stuck in the snow and he needed to find a tow. Then his strings came loose and he feared losing his weight, and finally, at 5 p.m., when he was checking his rear view mirror to see if his ties were solid, he missed a stop sign. A chartered bus carrying the Humboldt Broncos Hockey Club was coming to the intersection and could not stop in time. The two vehicles collided, killing 16 people and injuring 13 others on the bus. Canada plunged into mourning.
After weeks of investigation, the RCMP charged Sidhu with death due to dangerous driving in 16 cases and bodily harm due to dangerous driving in 13 cases. He pleaded guilty to each and every charge. He did not offer defense. He didn’t try to bargain.
“My parents taught me that if you ever do something wrong, admit it. Take more [the Humboldt families] Through a long process they will certainly suffer more, not less.”
Sidhu comes from a middle-class farming family in India. He immigrated to Canada in 2014 with a degree in commerce. His then girlfriend Tanveer Mann arrived in India last year after completing her nursing degree.
Sitting in their small apartment in Calgary, Mann said he was living the Canadian dream: “We were slowly building our future. He was working a liquor store and I worked part-time at Tim Hortons.” We were trying to save some money. Higher education.”
Just three months before the horrific collision, Mann and Jaskirat became husband and wife in a fairy-tale wedding in India.
They did not honeymoon, and returned to Canada, where Mann was accepted into a dental hygienist program in Toronto. Sidhu took up another job to help Mann go to school. A friend suggested driving a truck and Sidhu completed a one week training course. Then he supervised for two weeks. When Sidhu got behind the wheel on that April 2018 day, it was one of his first solo long-running jobs.
“Sometimes I sit and I hear babies cry, babies cry, and I look at all the devastated pictures in my mind. And people are running, the firefighters, all the first responders. Those things, they still are with me.”
His wife never liked the fact that he was driving big rigs. With tears streaming down her face she retrieves the phone call that changed her life: “She’s in a really bad accident. The word ‘bad’ broke me. All I knew was my life That very moment it turned upside down. He was crying, I was crying. He told me that there was a huge loss. And he told me that he had made a big mistake.”
Sidhu was sentenced to eight years in prison. Until recently, he has been in medium security, but in August was transferred to minimum security at the Bowden Institution, 100 kilometers north of Calgary.
While Sidhu did not defend his criminal trial, he is now fighting. This time for the right to live in Canada.
“There is no point running away from things. I can try to make things better. I am certainly indebted to this country.”
Sidhu is not a Canadian citizen. He is a permanent resident. Under immigration rules, anyone convicted of a crime with a sentence of more than six months is subject to deportation.
Calgary immigration attorney Michael Green is representing Sidhu. In an interview with W5, he said, “There is so much tragedy to go around. Above all is tragedy for the families of the victims and the survivors. But there is another tragedy as well, and that is Jaskirat and his wife Tanveer.”
In January 2021, Green submitted a 415-page binder explaining why Sidhu should not be deported, his extreme remorse, lack of criminal history, low risk for re-offending and the fact that Citing that neither drugs, alcohol nor excessive speed were a factor. Collision. Hundreds of letters of public support have also been included in the file. Among them are letters from the three Humboldt families, including the parents of Ivan Thomas, who died in the accident.
Scott and Laurie Thomas have not only forgiven Sidhu, they are actively working to keep him in Canada.
“We sent a few letters to his lawyer saying that our family doesn’t think he needs to be deported. That’s not necessarily a conclusion of how it all ends.”
His anger is directed not at the man who caused his son’s death, but at the industry that put him behind the wheel. A W5 investigation reveals an ongoing and potentially fatal lack of monitoring of truck driver training schools three years after the tragedy.
Scott Thomas sees a day when he and Sidhu stand together on stage, demanding action.
“If Mr. Sidhu is in Canada and we have a chance… for the two of us to talk together about what happened and how we can make this a better place, I think it’s definitely going to be better for Canada. opportunity, and much more so than sending them home.”
Chances are not in Sidhu’s favour. Some Humboldt families have spoken out in support of their deportation. And the onus is on attorney Michael Green to convince an enforcement officer from the Canadian Border Services Agency that he should be allowed to stay.
“This can be one of the toughest cases ever for a CBSA officer, because it’s not clear cut. Usually, you have a really serious crime going on. It’s easier for them to say ‘goodbye’. In case… you have unintentionally committed a crime, you have someone with an impeccable record who is well established in Canada, who has a bright future. There is another factor, who is his wife. They had this dream together . While he is very broken, he is not just fighting for himself, he is also seeking a second chance for his wife.”
Once the CBSA officer makes a decision it is sent to the representative of the Minister of Immigration, who has the final decision on deportation. Green says immigration ministers can intervene in rare cases. Since 2001, Canada has deported more than 20,000 people for “serious criminality”.
If Sidhu is deported, Mann said that she too will return to India.
“We definitely want to live in Canada because Canada is our home now. But if he’s not here, I won’t be able to live here. I have to go after him.”
Placing his hand on his heart, Jaskirat Sidhu said: “I am not the person who did this intentionally or intentionally. I know people have lost their lives and I don’t want to hide. All I can do is I Stand in front of him. Hold him and my hand and say, sorry.”
A decision on whether Sidhu will be allowed to stay in Canada is expected to be taken soon.
W5’s investigation of the trucking industry, “The Humboldt Driver,” airs Saturday nights at 7 p.m. on Granthshala.