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‘It has to send a message:’ Broncos families await sentencing for truck driver

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  • Kevin Matechuk says he will never, never forgive the semi driver who caused the deadly Humboldt Broncos bus crash.

    Matechuk’s 19-year-old son Layne of Colonsay, Sask., is still coping with a brain injury he suffered in the collision last April. The young man’s recovery is expected to be a long one.

    The trucker who blew through a stop sign and caused the crash, Jaskirat Singh Sidhu of Calgary, is to be sentenced in Melfort, Sask., on Friday.

    “I know he purposely didn’t go out to kill all those people but he did … run that stop sign,” Matechuk said recently from the family’s temporary home in Saskatoon.

    “It was his fault.”

    Sixteen people were killed and 13 were injured when the transport truck drove into the path of the junior hockey team’s bus at a rural Saskatchewan intersection.

    Court heard that Sidhu went by four signs warning about the upcoming intersection before he came up to an oversized stop sign with a flashing light. His lawyer told court Sidhu was an inexperienced driver distracted by a flapping tarp on the back of his load.

    Sidhu, 30, pleaded guilty to 29 counts of dangerous driving and apologized in court. The Crown has asked that he serve 10 years in prison. The defence did not propose a specific sentence but said other cases point to between 1 1/2 to 4 1/2 years.

    Family members submitted 90 victim impact statements during an emotional sentencing hearing in January. Some said they forgive Sidhu, while others said they are too angry.

    “It’s funny how the wide range of different people feel and everyone’s entitled to their own opinion,” said Matechuk.

    Melanie Smith of Leduc, Alta., whose 20-year-old son Tyler was also injured, said she’ll be glad to have the court case over with.

    “We’re content about how it turned out with him pleading guilty to all 29 counts and the emotion he showed,” she said.

    “We don’t really have any thoughts either way on what he ends up getting sentenced. The problem is you either have to forgive or you somehow have to get past whose fault it was. It was his fault. And as a family we’re content.”

    Former NHL player Chris Joseph of St. Albert, Alta., lost his 20-year-old son Jaxon in the crash.

    He said forgiveness won’t bring his son back. And he’s going to be disappointed in whatever sentence Sidhu gets.

    “I don’t know if there’s any number that would make me happy,” he said.

    “He did the crime. He needs to do the time. And we would like the legal system to show that it doesn’t matter that you feel bad. It’s nice that you feel bad. It doesn’t matter though.”

    Michelle Straschnitzki’s 19-year-old son, Ryan, from Airdrie, Alta., was paralyzed from the chest down. She said she has days when she would like to think forgiveness is possible.

    But her anger overwhelms those feelings.

    “There are days that it’s no — no matter what. Nothing’s going to be OK again and 16 people are gone and the lives of 13 children are still in flux.”

    She wants the judge to give Sidhu a harsh sentence.

    “It has to be more than a slap on the wrist. It has to send a message,” she said.

    “Unfortunately it won’t really change anything, but it has to make a difference and change people’s minds.”

    — Follow @BillGraveland on Twitter

    Bill Graveland, The Canadian Press



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    National

    Global Affairs warns Canadians in Sri Lanka there could be more attacks

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  • OTTAWA — The federal government is warning Canadians in Sri Lanka to limit their movements and avoid affected areas after a series of bomb blasts killed at least 207 people and injured hundreds more.

    Global Affairs Canada has issued a statement warning that the situation in the island nation remains “volatile,” and more attacks are possible. The government has also warned that the High Commission of Canada to Sri Lanka in the capital Colombo will be closed on Monday due to the security situation.

    Sri Lanka’s government has imposed a nationwide overnight curfew and blocked access to social media in the wake of the attacks at churches, hotels and a guesthouse on Easter Sunday.

    The country’s foreign minister says at least 27 foreigners were among those killed in the co-ordinated attacks, but it’s not clear if any Canadians are among the victims.

    Prime Minister Justin Trudeau is among the world leaders responding to the tragedy, tweeting Sunday morning that Canada “strongly condemns the heinous attacks on Christians.”

    “Absolutely horrific news from Sri Lanka,” Trudeau wrote. “Our hearts and thoughts are with the families and loved ones of those killed and all those injured.”

    The Sri Lankan defence minister said seven suspects linked to the blasts have been arrested.

    — with files from The Associated Press

    The Canadian Press


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    Hundreds of Canadian troops deployed to flood zones in Quebec and N.B.

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  • MONTREAL — Many people in Quebec and New Brunswick will be spending their Sunday filling sandbags as they keep an anxious watch on rising floodwaters that are wreaking havoc across a wide region.

    About 200 soldiers started filling sandbags and carrying out evacuations in Quebec’s Outaouais and Mauricie regions overnight, with an additional 400 troops standing ready to deploy there and in Laval today.

    Urgence Quebec says that as of last night, bloated rivers had resulted in 903 flooded residences, 251 isolated residences and 317 evacuees across the province.

    Eight major floods have been identified as threatening thousands of Quebecers, and so far one death has been blamed on the high water.

    Police say 72-year-old Louise Seguin Lortie died Saturday morning after driving her car into a sinkhole caused by flooding in the Pontiac area, about 30 kilometres northwest of Ottawa.

    Some of the worst flooding has been in the Beauce region south of Quebec City, where 868 homes were swamped and 94 people evacuated.

    Meanwhile, about 120 Canadian soldiers are being deployed across western New Brunswick to help residents threatened by rising floodwaters.

    Fifteen communities in that province have been warned to remain on high alert.

     

    The Canadian Press


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