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‘Nobody wins in this:’ Truck driver in fatal Broncos crash gets 8-year sentence

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MELFORT, Sask. — A truck driver who caused the deadly Humboldt Broncos bus crash was sentenced Friday to eight years in prison by a judge who said she believed his remorse was sincere, but she had to consider the serious consequences for so many people.

Tears began to flow almost as soon as Judge Inez Cardinal began her decision and continued afterwards as families sombrely gathered outside court.

Jaskirat Singh Sidhu of Calgary had pleaded guilty in January to 29 counts of dangerous driving for killing 16 people and injuring 13 others on the junior hockey team’s bus.

The 30-year-old stood quietly and looked at the judge as he was sentenced. His punishment includes a 10-year driving ban. He also faces deportation to his home country of India after he serves time.

“Families have been torn apart because of the loss,” Cardinal told court in Melfort, Sask. “They are prone to depression, anxiety or outbursts.”

She also spoke of the survivors, who she suggested “are putting on a brave face in an attempt to be strong.”

Marilyn Cross, whose son Mark was an assistant coach with the team, said seeing Sidhu go to prison for his death brings no comfort.

“The sentence is neither here nor there for me. Our son isn’t coming back. Nobody wins in this,” she said.

Raylene Herold and her husband, Russell, were among some family members wearing Broncos jerseys in court.

“For us, our life doesn’t change. Adam doesn’t come back,” she said as she broke into tears. “We have a lifetime sentence.”

The 16-year-old, the youngest Bronco on the bus, was to take over the family farm one day. His father said the upcoming one-year anniversary of the April 6 crash will be another painful reminder of what they’ve lost. 

“We have emptiness, devastation … There’s an empty future there,” he said.

Cardinal said the loss expressed in nearly 100 victim impact statements was staggering and she approached the sentence knowing “nothing can turn back the clock.”

She went on to note that Sidhu barrelled through a stop sign as he drove a “huge, heavy, deadly” semi and the accident could have been avoided.

“Mr. Sidhu had ample time to react … had he been paying attention,” she said.

The Crown wanted Sidhu to be sent to prison for 10 years, while the defence said other cases suggested a range of 1 1/2 to 4 1/2 years.

“We’re disappointed. We knew we were going to be disappointed,” said former NHL player Chris Joseph, whose son Jaxon was killed. “There’s no number that would have made me happy.”

Mark Dahlgren, whose son Kaleb suffered a brain injury, said the sentence was “one more step in the process.”

“We have an anniversary coming up that is going to be very, very tough. And I hope after that maybe we can get back to whatever our new normal is for everybody.”

Sidhu said nothing as he was taken into custody, handcuffed and escorted by officers to a waiting SUV. His uncle from London, England, later gave a statement to reporters.

“On behalf of my family, I would like to express my sincere sympathy to the 29 families,” Chanan Singh Sidhu read. “We also feel indebted to the families and the Canadian public at large for the support, sympathy and understanding they have shown … for my nephew and our families.”  

Cardinal began her decision by reading aloud each victim’s name. She said the people on the bus that afternoon were “not defined just by their association with hockey.”

“They were gifted athletes, community leaders, and team builders with hopes and dreams for the future … Some were dreaming of having a family, while others were already raising their families.”

Cardinal said several factors, including his remorse and guilty plea, saved Sidhu from a maximum sentence of 14 years.

But she pointed out he had missed several signs about the upcoming rural intersection and his lapse of attention had been prolonged.

“This was not a momentary loss of attention. He had ample time to stop his unit. Mr. Sidhu wasn’t speeding but his speed was excessive.”

Court previously had heard that Sidhu was going between 86 and 96 km/h when he passed four signs warning him about the crossroads before he came up to an oversized stop sign with a flashing light.

Defence lawyer Mark Brayford had told court Sidhu was distracted by a flapping tarp on the back of his load of peat moss.

Sidhu had been hired by a small Calgary trucking company three weeks before the crash. He spent two weeks with another trucker before heading out on his own for the first time just days before the crash.

The Humboldt Broncos hockey team issued a statement soon after the sentence.

“Having … the sentencing complete is a big step in the healing process for the survivors, grieving families, our organization and the community of Humboldt and surrounding area,” said president Jamie Brockman.

— Follow @BillGraveland on Twitter

 

Bill Graveland and Stephanie Taylor, The Canadian Press


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Five Things to watch for as PM meets Trump, congressional leaders in Washington

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WASHINGTON — Prime Minister Justin Trudeau is spending the day in Washington for a meeting with President Donald Trump at the White House and face time with congressional leaders from the Republicans and Democrats on Capitol Hill. Here are five things to watch for:

1. Working towards certainty on continental trade uncertainty

Trump foisted an acrimonious renegotiation of the North American Free Trade Agreement on Canada and Mexico, and after more than year of hard-fought bargaining, everyone survived. The leaders of the three countries signed the deal late last year, but final legal ratification remains a significant hurdle — especially in the U.S. Trump has insulted House Leader Nancy Pelosi, who essentially holds the cards on ratification. But Trump’s trade czar Robert Lighthizer has been repeatedly complimentary of her efforts to find solutions. Trudeau will likely seek to persuade Pelosi that if the deal is good enough for Liberals in Canada, perhaps the Democrats in the U.S. can swallow it too. We likely won’t know for weeks how successful Trudeau will be. But one test will be whether the matter moves through Congress before the end of July, when it adjourns for the summer.

2. Helping two Canadians in big trouble in China

Two Canadian men, Michael Kovrig and Michael Spavor, have been languishing behind bars in China for more than six months. Their arrest is widely viewed as retaliation for Canada’s arrest of Huawei executive Meng Wanzhou in Vancouver on an American extradition warrant. Chinese leaders have snubbed Trudeau and his cabinet ministers, but Trump has been playing hardball with the People’s Republic in an escalating trade war that is rocking the global economy. During a visit to Ottawa last month, U.S. Vice-President Mike Pence said Trump will push Chinese President Xi Jinping for their release at the G20 leaders’ summit in Japan next week. Will Trump tip his hand about doing Trudeau a favour?

3. Winning in the eyes of Canadians

Managing relations with the United States, Canada’s largest trading partner, neighbour, close friend and ally is arguably one of the most important jobs of a prime minister. Trudeau has had a rough time with Trump, to put it mildly. Trump insulted him over Twitter after leaving the G7 in Quebec last year, and he imposed punishing steel and aluminum tariffs on Canadian imports as a bargaining chip in the NAFTA talks. All of that would seem to be history. The subtexts, the body language the words, each interaction between the two men will be under scrutiny when they shake hands and trade remarks in the Oval Office. What matters for Trudeau — and Conservative Leader Andrew Scheer — is how Canadians interpret that when they go to the polls in October.

4. Huawei, or not Huawei

The Trump administration is clear: the Chinese telecom giant is a national security threat and won’t be supplying any of the equipment for America’s next generation 5G network. The Trump administration doesn’t want Canada or its allies using Huawei either. The Trudeau government is taking its time deciding. Trudeau and Public Safety Minister Ralph Goodale have repeatedly said they will make an evidence-based decision on the advice of their national security experts. That likely won’t come before the October election, however. Trump will push the issue with Trudeau when they talk in private. In public, expect nothing to change.

5. That’s the way the basketball bounces

In addition to trying to work to salvage the North American economy, protect jobs and bring certainty back to big business planning, Trudeau will have the opportunity to gloat with Pelosi for winning his bet on the NBA Finals that saw the Toronto Raptors defeat her home-state Golden State Warriors. Will Trudeau pop the cork on the nice bottle of California wine he is likely to receive? More importantly, perhaps, will Trump give any hint that he plans to invite the champions to the White House, in keeping with what is now an often-controversial tradition?

Mike Blanchfield, The Canadian Press

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Trade, China sure to surface as Trudeau meets Trump, congressional leaders

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WASHINGTON — Justin Trudeau is headed back to the White House today in what could prove to be a pivotal visit to the U.S. capital not only for North American trade and Canada’s strained relationship with China, but for the campaign-bound prime minister himself.

An earnest end to the tensions between Trudeau and President Donald Trump, which erupted into full view following last year’s G7 summit in Quebec, could prove useful to his governing Liberals when Canadians head to the polls this fall.

The Oval Office meeting, Trudeau’s third since Trump was elected in 2016, is aimed primarily at pushing the new North American trade deal over the finish line in both countries.

But Trudeau will also be looking to the U.S. president to speak out against the detention of Canadians Michael Kovrig and Michael Spavor, who have been languishing behind bars in China since shortly after Canada arrested high-tech executive Meng Wanzhou late last year at the behest of U.S. authorities. 

Canada has been caught in the crossfire after detaining Meng last December in Vancouver, where she awaits extradition south of the border to face allegations of fraud in violating Iran sanctions.

Trudeau is hoping Trump will go to bat for Kovrig and Spavor when he meets China’s President Xi Jinping at next week’s G20 leaders’ summit in Japan.

Vice-President Mike Pence has promised Trump would do just that, but Trudeau will find out today whether the mercurial president plans to follow through.

And then there’s the new NAFTA.

Trump needs to persuade his Democratic opponents in the House of Representatives — in particular Speaker Nancy Pelosi, with whom Trudeau is scheduled to meet later in the day — to allow the actual start of the ratification of the U.S.-Mexico-Canada Agreement (USMCA). Lawmakers in Mexico voted Wednesday in a landslide to ratify the deal.

U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer called that “a crucial step forward” towards finalizing the deal.

“The USMCA is the strongest and most advanced trade agreement ever negotiated. It is good for the United States, Mexico, and Canada in a way that truly benefits our workers, farmers, and businesses,” he said in a statement.

Pelosi and her fellow Democrats want stronger enforcement mechanisms for the deal’s new labour and environmental provisions — and Trudeau’s visit might be just the thing needed to pry loose her support.

Canada, meanwhile, has been building strong support for the new NAFTA and open borders within the U.S. and it has many American business allies who remain active.

Lighthizer told the powerful House ways and means committee Wednesday that he’s willing to co-operate with Democrats to move forward on the new trade bill.

“Getting this done sooner rather than later is in everybody’s interest,” he said. “It saves jobs, it helps the economy, it gets certainty in place.”

Mike Blanchfield, The Canadian Press

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