Will Jaskirat Singh Sidhu be deported? My thoughts -starts at about 13:40 of this interview with Danielle Smith of AM770.
Danielle Smith: Okay. Now everybody is wondering why, right? Why did he blow through the stop sign? So Jaskirat Singh Sidhu, I will read his full statement. Of course it's quite short, but his lawyer says that the victim's family has been asking why his client went through the stop sign. He said, "I'm disappointed to say that I can't tell people what happened. He simply doesn't know. He beats himself up every day. Why didn't I see the signs? Why didn't I stop?" He said that Sidhu immigrated from India five years ago, and three weeks before the crash was hired by a small trucking company in Calgary. He spent two weeks driving with another driver before heading out on his own for his first time in the area near Tisdale. about 15 minutes before the collision, Sidhu stopped to adjust tarps covering his load. As he was heading towards the intersection, he was still focused on the tarps, and was looking in his rear mirrors.
Danielle Smith: He said, "Sidhu didn't see the intersection and he didn't see the bus." He said, "There's no evidence that he deliberately chose to blow through this intersection to save time. Otherwise he would have been charged with criminal negligence." He said that any sentence over six months would likely mean his client is deported because he is not a Canadian citizen. So, that's what happened. It sounds like it was his first time out on his own. He'd only been on the job three weeks. He'd been trained two weeks.
Danielle Smith: The tarp that was covering the peat moss needed to be adjusted. He stopped, adjusted it, and then was looking in his rear view mirror to see whether or not it was blowing off. Missed all of the indications along the way, because I think there's four different indications that you've got a stop sign. Went through, and then came out at the scene, and didn't understand what had happened. It says in other news stories that it was pretty clear he didn't even know that he had gone through a stop sign.
Danielle Smith: So, his full statement is, "I can't imagine what you guys are going through, what you've been through. I've taken the most valuable things in your life. I was on the side of the road with the outside window, outside door, above me. I came up from the truck and I heard the kids crying. At that time, I started to think what has happened? It took me time to see or realize that it was a bus. I take full responsibility for what's happened. It happened because of my lack of experience. And I'm so, so, so, so, so sorry for this day."
Danielle Smith: I mean, we can have a conversation about whether or not the owners of this trucking company should also be held responsible for sending him out in that situation with very little experience. Just know that we'll get to some calls, but I am interested in knowing why it is that the lawyer feels like he will be very likely deported. Raj Sharma is going to shed some light on that. Raj Sharma, of course, is an immigration lawyer.
Danielle Smith: So Raj, what do you think of this case? What's your initial thoughts of all the things that have come out this week? I think there's been a real emotional rollercoaster for the families. He seems to have a lot of mitigating information he's putting on the table which might impact what the sentence should be. He's taken full responsibility. He hasn't tried to shove it off on anybody else, but does that change any of the factors when they're considering deportation?
Raj Sharma: Well first of all, I have an incredible amount of sympathy for everyone affected by this tragedy, including Mr. Sidhu. I think a more nuanced picture has risen about him. I think that by not putting the families through a trial, he's taken full responsibility. It's remarkable in this day and age when everyone seems to slough off responsibility.
I would also like to add something. I've heard from a number of clients and other people, this rushing to get the commercial truck driving licenses done before March 1, and that's because that road test component, road hours, is going to increase tenfold from 10 hours to about 100.
Raj Sharma: So I think, there's some responsibility lies in terms of regulation as well. We are allowing individuals to be driving, I mean, literally that could be missiles at that speed, and at that weight, and at that tonnage. These instruments have the ability to wreak havoc, and we're allowing individuals to do so with minimal sort of requirements. We recognize that in the wake of this tragedy, and I think to some degree, I think there's a lot of blame to be shared between Mr. Sidhu, between the regulator, and of course the owner of his small trucking company that employed him.
Danielle Smith: Yeah. Agreed. So, the status that he has as a permanent resident, and the charges that he's facing. I've heard two different stories. One is that because he's pled guilty to a crime that carries a sentence of 10 years or more, that is automatically one of the reasons why he would be deported. His lawyers seems to say that if he has a sentence that's longer than six months, that is also an avenue for being deported. What does the law say?
Raj Sharma: Well, the law is quite clear. I mean, Section 36 of the Immigration Refugee Protection Act. He's a [inaudible 00:18:35] resident of Canada. He's convicted of a crime in Canada. It carries with it a max sentence of 10 years or more, and a sentence of more than six months will be imposed. So on both grounds, he could found inadmissible to Canada. Now, the only reason why I say there's an avenue for him to avoid deportation is that an officer will make a decision to write a Section 44 report or not. You could, theoretically, you could ask that officer not to write the report. And if that officer doesn't write the report, then enforcement proceedings, deportation procedures would not be initiated.
Danielle Smith: Tell me what the Section 44 report refers to. What does that mean?
Raj Sharma: Section 44 report will indicate he's not a Canadian citizen. He's a permanent resident of Canada. He's been convicted of this crime in Canada. That crime carries with it the sentence of 10 years or more, and he was sentenced to more than six months, and therefore he's inadmissible to Canada.
Danielle Smith: Okay. So just by not flagging that, that just by default could mean that he would serve a sentence, be released, and then continue on as a permanent resident?
Raj Sharma: I'll give you that example. I represented an individual who was intoxicated, who was drunk, and was driving a Cadillac Escalade, a large vehicle, and he t-boned a taxi here in Calgary, and killed the taxi driver and his young passenger, who had done the responsible thing by calling a taxi after drinking, and trying to go home, and he killed both of them. He was facing removal to Mexico, and that deportation didn't occur. That was a case that I myself had handled, not too in the past, and I would argue that Mr. Sidhu was, you know, culpability in this case, for example, negligence is far different than knowingly drinking and driving.
Danielle Smith: So, would somebody then have to lobby the ... I don't even know who would do this. If people felt strongly that he should be deported, would that require some kind of political initiation? That somebody needs to proactively ask the minister to demand this Section 44 report. How would that come together?
Raj Sharma: I think the officer responsible. We don't allow politics to sort of impact decisions by an immigration officers. An immigration officer will have to balance competing considerations. Now bear in mind, Conrad Black was convicted, sentenced to more than six years in jail in the US. Gave up his Canadian citizenship, is 100% inadmissible to Canada, and he's in Canada because an officer saw fit to give him a temporary resident permit. So, this type of discretion is within the purview of an immigration officer, and an officer will exercise it one way or the other.
Raj Sharma: I have done a number of these sorts of cases, and an officer has seen fit to exercise that discretion and not write that report. And of course, the officer will have to balance these sort of competing considerations, which is, again, I don't think Mr. Sidhu is a risk, and this is obviously negligence. It's a one-off event. I don't think there's going to be concerns about ongoing criminality. I don't think there's any concerns in terms of remorse, or rehabilitation, or recidivism. He's a young man and a newlywed. His wife is a permanent resident. He immigrated to Canada as an international student. He has no previous criminality. And again, there's no intimation that this is anything other than a very, very tragic accident, and so an officer may well see fit, and again, a number of the Humboldt survivors and their families have seen fit to forgive him. I think that has to be a consideration for any officer.
Danielle Smith: I think one of the things people want to see is that they recognize he's not going to get consecutive sentences for all the lives that he took. You've talked about whether or not there's a chance of re-offending. I think people would look at deportation as just the punishment. That when you kill that many people, you just don't get a right to stay in Canada.
Raj Sharma: Well, we had, of course, the Canadian citizen who took a swig from a vodka bottle after his concrete truck slammed and rear-ended a car killing four individuals, and you know, that concrete truck driver, again, driving a very, very lethal sort of dangerous vehicle without due care and attention, intoxicated, that individual served his sentence for five years, I believe, and is not going to be deported. So, to some degree it's a double jeopardy. Here, Mr. Sidhu's going to serve his time, and on top of that he's going to face removal from this country.
Danielle Smith: What do you think the public wants to see in this case? Do you have a sense of that? I'm really torn on it because you've seen some family members say, "I don't forgive you. I can't forgive you. Throw the book at him." But then, you have seen others that have met with him one on one, that have hugged him after his testimony. What do you think? Where do you think the general public lies on this? Do you think that there'd be outrage if he wasn't deported?
Raj Sharma: I don't think so. This is quite a bit different than, again, I would imagine that my client who was intoxicated and killed two innocents, individuals in his drunken state, there's more moral culpability in that situation than for Mr. Sidhu. I don't think there'll be an outrage. I'll give you another example. There was the Khosa case. Two individuals were street racing in Vancouver and accidentally killed a woman on Marine Drive. That sentence imposed on them was two years less a day, a conditional sentence in the community, but it did result in deportation for them.
Raj Sharma: So, I don't think that there's going to be outrage if Mr. Sidhu is not deported. Personally, in this case I defer to the victims and their families in terms. It seems that there's a mix in terms of the responses. You've seen quite a few individuals have forgiven him. I think he's done the honorable thing in this sort of situation. It truly seems to be an accident, and he's taken the honorable way. And look, as a lawyer, he could have advanced a defense.
Danielle Smith: Yeah. And he didn't. He just chose to take ... I don't know if you have a thought on how that would lend itself to the sentencing? I think a lot of people were expecting, if the Crown asked for 10 years that it's going to be 10 years.
Raj Sharma: No.
Danielle Smith: No? What do you think it'll be?
Raj Sharma: The case law, like I've said, the Khosa case which involved street racing, again, moral culpability is something that they knew or ought to have known could have resulted in tragedy. You have the individual, the concrete truck driver in Calgary, again, taking a swig from a bottle of vodka after the accident. You've got individuals, again, the Mexican national that killed two innocent passengers in Calgary. I mean, based on both cases, I think somewhere between four and six years.
Danielle Smith: Well, Raj Sharma, thank you so much for your observations. I appreciate it.
Raj Sharma: My pleasure.
Danielle Smith: That's Raj Sharma, Calgary immigration lawyer, and he's thinking four to six years. We won't know again until March 22nd, but do you think justice would be served if that is the ultimate outcome? 403-974-8255. Be right back on 770 CHQR.