REGINA — The judge deciding the fate of a truck driver who caused the deadly Humboldt Broncos crash is a passionate former Crown prosecutor who once worked as a conservation officer and played on a boys hockey team while she was growing up in rural Saskatchewan.
Provincial court Judge Inez Cardinal is to hand down a sentence Friday for Jaskirat Singh Sidhu.
The 30-year-old Calgary truck driver blew through a stop sign and into the path of the junior hockey team’s bus near Tisdale, Sask., last April. Sixteen people died and 13 others were injured.
During an emotional sentencing hearing in January, Cardinal sat for four days in a makeshift courtroom in a gymnasium in Melfort, Sask., and listened to relatives of the people on the bus describe their pain and grief.
Lawyers argued that Sidhu, who pleaded guilty to 29 counts of dangerous driving, be sentenced anywhere from 1 1/2 years in jail to 10 years in prison.
Greg Brkich, a member of the legislature with the governing Saskatchewan Party, grew up with Cardinal in the village of Bladworth, south of Saskatoon.
“She was very intense,” Brkich told The Canadian Press. “When she wanted to do something she did it.”
The daughter of a grain buyer and a homemaker, Cardinal had 10 siblings and was involved in sports growing up, Brkich says. He remembers his 10-and-under boys hockey team needed more players and Cardinal ended up on the roster.
With an interest in the environment, she worked as a conservation officer and earned a diploma in renewable technology, but eventually settled on a law career.
She worked as a Crown prosecutor in Regina, La Ronge and Saskatoon.
And she was a teacher.
Willie Ermine helped hire Cardinal for a position as sessional lecturer in Indigenous law at the First Nations University of Canada in Prince Albert. She fit in well, he says.
“I always had the sense she really wanted to work with the students,” he says.
“She had a good mind for Indigeneity.”
In 2006, Cardinal became Saskatchewan’s first designated prosecutor for environmental offences.
“It was something very close to her heart,” says Matthew Miazga, a Crown prosecutor who worked with Cardinal in Saskatoon.
Miazga now does environmental prosecutions, but says Cardinal defined the role.
She did educational seminars with conservation officers, travelled across North America to talk about environmental law and worked with an organization focused on environmental crime, he says.
She also loved fishing and created elaborate wood carvings of game birds.
“I’m just laughing because I’m looking on my desk. I still get her subscription to the Western Canadian Game Warden (magazine),” he says.
“Maybe she’s wondering why she hasn’t got them for several years.”
Darrell Crabbe, executive director of the Saskatchewan Wildlife Federation, sat in on a few cases that Cardinal prosecuted. He credits her for helping increase fines and penalties for people guilty of environmental crimes such as illegal hunting and outfitting.
“Inez was instrumental in changing, I would say, the legal system’s attitudes towards the values of fish and wildlife,” he says.
Cardinal knows her way around a courtroom and is not the type to suffer fools, adds Miazga, who has appeared in front of her since she was appointed to the bench in Melfort in 2012.
He also remembers her playing in some office hockey matches.
“She could be a pretty tough opponent … and I seem to recall her being somebody you’d rather have on your team.”
Stephanie Taylor, The Canadian Press
Manitoba wants to attract Quebec civil servants worried about clothing law
WINNIPEG — The Manitoba government is planning to recruit civil servants from Quebec who are concerned about a new law in the province banning religious symbols at work.
Manitoba has a shortage of bilingual civil servants, Premier Brian Pallister says, and will send letters to Quebec professional organizations, colleges and other entities to invite public-sector workers to move west.
“We think that there may be people in Quebec right now who want to come to a province where we don’t have clothing police, where their freedoms will be respected and their rights will be respected,” Pallister said Thursday.
The Quebec ban on religious symbols in the workplace applies only to some people in the civil service in positions of authority, including judges, police officers, court clerks and public school teachers.
Pallister’s office says the Manitoba recruitment effort will target a range of public workers in areas such as education, health care, social services and agriculture.
Critics say it unfairly targets Muslims, Sikhs and other religious minorities. Quebec Premier Francois Legault has said the law helps ensure secularism in the workplace and is supported by a majority of Quebecers.
Pallister raised his opposition to the law at a meeting of Canada’s premiers in Saskatoon earlier this month, although it was not part of the formal agenda and was not included in the communique issued by the premiers after the meeting.
Pallister said the letter to Quebec organizations will be finalized soon and will be made available publicly.
“I’m not trying to hide the fact that I disagree with Bill 21, and I’m not going to try to hide the fact that we’re going to use the threat of it to serve the needs of the people of Manitoba, and to give opportunity to people who feel at all concerned about that particular bill,” he said.
The Quebec law was a campaign promise by Legault and took effect last month. It is being challenged in court by a national Muslim organization and a civil liberties group.
A Quebec Superior Court judge rejected their application Thursday to suspend the law until the court case can be heard.
Steve Lambert, The Canadian Press
Appeal for calm as tensions mount in Oka over land transfer to Kanesatake
MONTREAL — There were appeals for calm Thursday amid steadily mounting tension in Oka, Que., over a private developer’s plan to return land to the Mohawks of Kanesatake.
Hundreds packed a church Wednesday night in the community, about 90 kilometres northwest of Montreal, to discuss the return of a pine forest central to the 1990 Oka crisis as part of a federal ecological donation to the Mohawk Council of Kanesatake.
The meeting was convened by Oka Mayor Pascal Quevillon, who said he was caught off guard by land developer Gregoire Gollin’s intention to donate the 60 hectares known as The Pines last month, ensuring its preservation.
Gollin said he acted in the spirit of reconciliation when he signed the agreement, and was also prepared to discuss the sale of an additional 150 hectares he owns to the federal government to transfer to the Mohawk community — nearly half of which he said is adjacent to land owned by Kanesatake.
Quevillon said he is concerned about Oka becoming “surrounded” by the Mohawk territory, and worried about property values. He implored the federal government to take the town’s concerns into consideration.
He said the adjacent Mohawk community has illegal dumps and numerous cannabis and cigarette merchants — things the village of Oka doesn’t want to see expanded.
“My comments are the reality — I would like to tell you otherwise but it’s the reality in Kanesatake,” Quevillon said.
Quevillon stressed he doesn’t want another Oka crisis but said he fears one could be triggered — this time led by Oka residents worried about encroachment.
“We don’t wish it, but if there is another one, it won’t come from the residents of Kanesatake because it’s the residents of Oka and their rights that are impacted,” Quevillon said.
Speaking to reporters in Montreal, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said he felt the mayor’s comments about being surrounded “lacked the necessary respect and understanding that is key to true reconciliation.”
“Reconciliation is extremely important for Canada and Canadians, that means overcoming difficult challenges, some loaded with historical significance,” Trudeau said.
“We know that the only way forward is through respectful partnership and dialogue and we certainly hope that all parties in Oka will engage in that respectful and constructive dialogue to allow us to move forward for the benefit of all.”
Kanesatake Grand Chief Serge Simon said tensions with Oka’s leadership have worsened in recent months and he has sought intermediaries like the provincial government to help.
“There’s always been an underlying tension,” Simon said. “There’s always been the ghost of 1990 and a mistrust of each other.”
But Simon took particular issue with the idea that the repatriation of lands would result in a drop in properly values, calling the mayor’s remarks racist.
He also called the notion of invoking another Oka crisis inflammatory, given the historical precedent.
“It’s irresponsible of him knowing damn well what happened and how it happened (in 1990) and he’s following in the same footsteps,” Simon said. “He’s knowingly fomenting a crisis.”
“(It’s) dangerous, very dangerous,” Simon added. “My community, we don’t want to live through something like that again … people back home aren’t afraid to fight, but it comes at a heavy price.”
The Assembly of First Nations Quebec-Labrador called Thursday for calm, noting the mayor’s comments are reminiscent of how tensions sparked between the Mohawk nation and Quebec some 29 years ago this summer.
Grand Chief Ghislain Picard said the priority is finding a way to talk.
“I certainly feel confident we’ll come to a resolution,” Picard said. “This obviously lies with the capacity of both Oka and Kanesatake to find a common space to engage in a constructive dialogue.”
Also Thursday, Quebec Indigenous Affairs Minister Sylvie D’Amours vowed to work with all sides, even though land claims are federal jurisdiction.
“In order to preserve social peace and ensure the safety of all, Minister D’Amours has been intensifying exchanges with the federal government, the mayor of Oka and the grand chief of Kanesatake for months,” spokeswoman Nadine Gros-Louis said in an email. “It is essential that the dialogue be open and positive.”
The donated land is part of lands central to the Oka crisis which began July 11, 1990.
Gunfire erupted between provincial police and Aboriginals defending a small stand of pine trees from the expansion of a golf course, resulting in the death of officer Marcel Lemay and sparking a 78-day showdown.
At the end of it, a deal was struck to bring down barricades in exchange for cancelling the expansion.
Simon said his own community held a meeting about the ecological gift and raised concerns about a gift of land that belongs to them. But he said it was a way to cut through red tape and keep the lands free from development, noting that part of the forest in question includes a wetland.
As for other future developments, Simon said Oka would be able to invest in projects that would be of use to both communities, like an arena for example, which could promote reconciliation through sport.
“We just need to find a way to work in harmony with our neighbours and promote more co-operation, peace and equality,” Simon said.
Sidhartha Banerjee, The Canadian Press
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