"It's twice as high as any sentence ever given for this offence."
Jaskirat Singh Sidhu, aged 31, faces deportation to India after serving his sentence.
The truck driver crashed into a bus carrying Canadian junior hockey players on April 6, 2018, killing 16 and injuring 13.
Driving at speeds of 100kph, Sidhu failed to stop at the red light and crashed his semi-trailer into the bus near Armley in Saskatchewan, Canada.
Sidhu, who came to Canada from Punjab in 2013, was sentenced to eight years for each of the 16 deaths and five years for dangerous driving in March 2019.
Sidhu’s lawyer Michael Greene said on October 29, 2020, that his client has no criminal background and posed no further threat to society, therefore he should not be deported.
Mr Greene said that Sidhu “clearly not the kind of guy that is going to commit another offence. So put all together, it’s going to be an extremely difficult decision for an (immigration) officer to make”.
In January 2019, Sidhu pleaded guilty to 29 counts of dangerous driving causing death or bodily injury.
In court, he admitted he failed to stop his semi-trailer truck at a highway intersection killing the 16 of the bus’s passengers.
As a permanent resident of Canada, Sidhu, under federal law, is liable for deportation as his sentence exceeded the 10-year PR sentence threshold.
A collision report found Sidhu failed to brake which ultimately led to the crash at the intersection of Highway 335 and 35.
During sentencing, Judge Inez Cardinal said Sidhu had many opportunities to prevent the collision. She also said it was inconceivable that he missed the intersection’s many large signs, including flashing lights.
However, Mr Greene said there were several mitigating issues.
He said “the crime wasn’t intentional and that, the judge had imposed the highest sentence by a hundred-fold.
Mr Greene added: “It’s twice as high as any sentence ever given for this offence.”
Michelle Straschnitzki, whose son Ryan was paralysed from the chest down in the crash, said she has sympathy for Sidhu’s family, who live in Canada.
But she said she does not think he deserves to stay in Canada and carry on with a normal life after his sentence ends.
She explained: “I would argue that there’s 29 people who don’t get to have a fresh, new life and because of his negligence — which is putting it lightly — it doesn’t really lend itself to that.
“I’m sorry. I feel terrible for his family and I don’t think he should be punished for the rest of his life.
“But I also don’t think he should be rewarded for his deeds.”
Scott Thomas’ son Evan was one of the hockey players killed. He forgave Sidhu in court and said he’s kept in touch with Sidhu’s wife while her husband has been in prison.
He said: “He’s a broken man and I don’t think any more purpose will be served by sending him away from the country, where he clearly wants to be with his wife.”
Mr Greene acknowledged the severity of the crash and the enormous grief that followed.
He said: “I think he got punished for the consequences.
“A lot of people thought it was too much, but he chose not to appeal it. A lot of people thought he could successfully appeal [the sentence], but he chose not to even challenge that.
“I understand that for some people, there will never be enough of a punishment and there just can never be.
“But there are a lot of people who believe in forgiveness. And they also realise that this was a perfect storm of circumstances where his carelessness was certainly a determinative factor.”
A verdict on Sidhu’s deportation is expected sometime in early 2021.