CALGARY — A lawyer for the truck driver who caused the deadly Humboldt Broncos bus crash told a federal judge Wednesday that the Canada Border Services Agency should not have recommended his client be deported.
Jaskirat Singh Sidhu was sentenced in 2019 to eight years after he pleaded guilty to dangerous driving causing death and bodily harm in the Saskatchewan crash that killed 16 people and injured 13 others.
He has since been granted full parole and is working in construction in Calgary while he fights the recommendation by the border agency that he be handed over to the Immigration and Refugee Board to decide whether he should be deported to India.
Federal Court Chief Justice Paul Crampton did not give a date for when he would have a decision but, because of the gravity of the case, said he would make it a priority.
Sidhu's lawyer, Michael Greene, said his client caused a national tragedy and "immeasurable pain and suffering," but the border officials who did the report didn't factor in Sidhu's previously clean record and remorse.
"The officer and the minister's delegate unreasonably restricted their assessment to considering the past consequences of the offence while failing to give any real consideration to the future risk to public safety and security," Greene said told court.
"In effect, they made this case about punishment and retribution."
Greene also referred to a report from Dr. Patrick Baillie, a psychologist, saying Sidhu has suffered post-traumatic stress disorder and depression as a result of the crash, and if he was sent back to India, his condition would "continue to deteriorate."
If Sidhu is successful in court, his case would be sent back to the border agency for review.
Court has heard that Sidhu was a rookie Calgary trucker and a newly married permanent resident when he went through a stop sign at a rural intersection and drove into the path of the bus carrying the Broncos junior hockey team in 2018.
Sidhu wasn't in court for the hearing.
"I'd like to extend our deepest sympathy to all concerned. I can't recall any case more truly tragic or heartbreaking for everyone involved," said the judge.
"The court will ultimately have to apply the rule of law recognizing that in so doing some lives can't be brought back and some necessary healing may become more difficult on one side or the other."
Crampton questioned Greene about the lawyer's concerns over the border agency's report. He noted it was 14 pages and contained a lot of details.
"I've seen a lot of these decisions over the years and that was one of the longer, more comprehensive decisions that I've seen by an officer."
Greene said the report failed to include positive details about his client, including his remorse and that he has a low chance of reoffending. He said the crash was a "twist of fate" that happened because Sidhu was distracted by the load he was hauling.
"When you look at all the circumstances of the offence, it's not a case of someone who goes out and deliberately murders a whole bunch of people," he said.
"It's a case of where someone's distracted and that danger creates a terrible situation, which became many, many, many times more terrible because of the fact that it was a bus."
A lawyer for the federal Department of Justice said the report's authors gave detailed reasons for their decision.
"The officers in this case far exceeded what they were required to do," said Brendan Friesen.
"The officers did a very good job of grappling with the main themes brought forward by the applicant. The officers considered all the important factors. They could have done no better."
This report by The Canadian Press was first published Sept. 13, 2023.
Bill Graveland, The Canadian Press