Last week, the driver of the semi truck that crashed into the bus carrying the Humboldt Broncos junior hockey team and ultimately killed 16 people nearly a year ago was handed down his sentence by Judge Inez Cardinal in a Melfort courtroom.
Eight years is what Jaskirat Singh Sidhu received. After he’s released from prison, he also can’t legally drive for ten years, and he’s also facing probable deportation back to his home country of India.
When the news hit, I almost felt like I was experiencing a form of déjà vu because the instant flood of divisive reactions and opinions on social media reminded me of the aftermath of the Gerald Stanley murder trial early last year.
Think about it; here was another case trial that involved a sad, untimely death, this one involving a larger group of young people. And once again, race played a big card in the public consciousness of this case. Sure, half the people wanted Sidhu’s head on a platter no matter what the color of his skin was, but it can’t be denied that there was – and still is – a large contingent of people out there who saw Sidhu’s ethnicity and made their automatic assumptions.
Again, very similar to the Gerald Stanley trial; the race card was played by different sides to suit a narrative. Only instead of the media fueling it, it was blue-collar folks and industry types who all think “those people” shouldn’t be driving big rigs.
I’ll freely admit that I had anger towards Jaskirat Sidhu much like most other people, particularly at the time of his arrest last summer. That’s just how we’re all wired; we want to direct an extreme emotion at someone in a sad case such as this.
Fast forward to last week, when Sidhu was sentenced, and by that time I’d really cooled on the whole “THROW THE BOOK AT HIM!” mentality. Don’t get me wrong, I still believe he was very much at fault and that his inexperience and inattentiveness were ultimately what ended 16 lives and altered 13 others forever on that fateful day last April, but when I read that Sidhu was given eight years in prison, I didn’t have any extreme reaction one way or the other.
Let’s face it – it was a sentence that wasn’t going to please everyone. It’s pretty rare that any sentence handed down by a judge ever really satisfies everyone.
No, I didn’t react to the news in the way that most people did because I already know that Jaskirat Sidhu received a life sentence when he was one of the few who was able to walk away from that crash.
‘Truck Driver Gets Eight Year Sentence’ may be what the headlines say, but make no mistake, this guy has been sentenced to life; the prison being his own mind, heart and conscience.
Say this guy leaves prison in the year 2027, at which point Sidhu should be about 38-39 years old. He gets deported back to India and can’t drive for another decade. Those by themselves are two constant reminders of what he did on a highway in rural Saskatchewan one early-spring Friday afternoon.
But worse than that is the prison inside his own head that Sidhu will be locked in, and as a relatively young guy when he exits prison after serving his time, that’s a long sentence.
Think about it, would you? And I mean really think about it. His life after LEAVING prison is actually going to be worse than spending eight years inside.
Every time Sidhu even approaches a moment during the rest of his life where he’s happy about something, SNAP, the most random of things will take his mind back to that crash. Every time he’s forced to find another means of getting from Point A to Point B because he legally can’t drive for a decade, he’ll think about that crash. Every time he goes to bed at night and he lays there unable to sleep, his consciousness will drift over to those vivid, violent images of the crash.
I’m not trying to convince you that anyone should actually feel sorry for this man, but I am trying to make you see that he most definitely is NOT just serving the prison time handed down to him in Melfort last week. Take a step back and look at this story from a big-picture point of view.
The official sentence may see Jaskirat Sidhu behind bars for eight years, but trust me, he’s serving life.
For this week, that’s been the Ruttle Report.