By Bill Graveland, The Canadian Press
CALGARY — The Canada Border Services Agency has rejected a request from the former truck driver who caused the deadly Humboldt Broncos bus crash that he be allowed to stay in Canada once his prison sentence has been served.
As a result, the case of Jaskirat Singh Sidhu will now be handed over to the Immigration and Refugee Board to decide if he should be deported back to India.
Sidhu’s lawyer, Michael Greene, said he and his clients had hoped for better news.
“My clients are devastated of course. It’s just terrible news. They had hoped for the best, but it was not to be,” Greene told The Canadian Press on Wednesday.
“The deportation hearing, or as they call it the immigration inquiry, will be more or less automatic. They have decided to push through that process by sending him to this hearing where the result will be automatic — a deportation order will be issued.”
Anna Pape, a senior communications spokeswoman for the Immigration and Refugee Board, said a hearing hasn’t been scheduled yet.
“I can confirm that Mr. Jaskirat Singh Sidhu has been referred to the Immigration Division of the IRB for an admissibility hearing on allegations of serious criminality based on convictions in Canada,” Pape said in an email.
“When this happens a member of the immigration division holds a hearing in the case to determine whether the allegations are founded and if so issues a removal order.”
In March 2019, Sidhu was sentenced to eight years after pleading guilty to dangerous driving causing death and bodily harm in the April 6, 2018, collision that killed 16 people and injured 13.
Court was told that the rookie Calgary trucker, a newly married permanent resident, went through a stop sign at a rural Saskatchewan intersection and drove into the path of the Humboldt Broncos bus carrying players and staff to a junior hockey league playoff game.
Greene said Sidhu is already eligible for parole and “they can deport any time after parole eligibility.”
He is considering challenging the decision by the border agency in Federal Court once he sees the reasons for rejecting the application.
“We have the opportunity to challenge the decision in Federal Court. But the only thing we can challenge on is if it was unreasonable or there was a lack of procedural fairness,” Greene said.
“There’s also the possibility of applying for permanent residence on humanitarian grounds and there are lots of humanitarian grounds on this case.”
Chris Joseph of St. Albert, Alta., whose son Jaxon, 20, died in the collision, was one of several Broncos family members who wrote letters asking for Sidhu to be deported, saying the laws are there for a reason.
“The Government of Canada (CBSA) has spoken and we support their decision,” Joseph said in a text message Wednesday. “Justice is served.”
Scott Thomas, who lost his 18-year-old son, Evan, in the crash, said he’s disappointed Sidhu could be deported.
“I had the opportunity to meet with him, I had the opportunity to cry with him, and have been able to move past that. Whether he’s in the country is no issue in our family’s healing process,” Thomas said in an interview from Saskatoon.
Thomas had written a letter supporting Sidhu to stay in the country, because he feels Sidhu could help push through tougher trucking regulations in the industry.
“That’s part of the reason why I’m disappointed. It’s another story that goes away, and people move on and forget about some of the issues that created the opportunity for this horrible tragedy.”
Several other Broncos families declined to comment.
Greene said Sidhu had hoped he and his wife would be able to share a future in Canada.
“One of the things they are grateful for is there has been incredible public support for them and I think they were even surprised that the sheer volume and percentage has been supportive,” Greene said.
“I’m sure there are haters out there. I’m sure there are people who can’t forgive or won’t forgive or who just feel that justice demands deportation, and it’s completely understandable.”
— With files from Mickey Djuric in Regina and Stephanie Taylor in Ottawa