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Feb. 21, 2019 | Thursday
Local News
Wallbangers remember the horror of Humboldt Broncos bus crash
Gregory McCaughey and his son Evan McCaughey beside the two hockey sticks leaning on their garage door in NOTL. (Supplied)

SUBMITTED BY ROSS ROBINSON.
OPINION

A sudden bus crash in northeastern Saskatchewan last April reminded us all of carefree road trips, school trips, church trips, sport trips, vacation trips.

Laughter, napping, chatting, enjoying old and new friends. No worries. No seat belts. Life was good.

Every one of us has been on that bus. It’s part of life in Canada, our huge and diverse country.

The crash, at a rural highway intersection in the late afternoon, killed 16 people and injured 13. Just like that. A trillion to one thing. Impossible to explain. Impossible to understand.

Where is Humboldt, population 5,819? About 240km north of Regina. About 150km southeast of Prince Albert. About 270km west of Swan River, Manitoba. Got that?

A small town with a Junior A hockey team, stocked largely with a bunch of teenagers imported from other prairie towns. From Slave Lake, Alberta to Whittier, California. Billeted, going to school, living the life, dreaming of the NHL or the NCAA. Rabid fans, teenage stardom, big shots in town. Riding the bus. Occasionally, defying road conditions to get to the next game in time.

The Broncos bus was almost to Nipawin, population 4,401, a further 180 km. further north. There was a Saskatchewan Junior Hockey League playoff game to be played. Some parents and fans were following in their cars. A big deal, eh?

These hometown heroes were between 16 and 19 years old. Yes, between 16 and 19! Plus, a few “overage juniors.” Think about that. Boys, young men. Livin’ the dream, eh?

Consider the importance of hockey in these small towns. Junior A hockey games are just so exciting, the biggest shows in town, not to be missed. Not much has changed since 1946, when the skating rink was the heart of town. Iconic French Canadian author Roch Carrier wrote The Hockey Sweater (not The Hockey Jersey) about winters in Ste. Justine, Quebec (population 1,200.) Way back then, in the days of natural ice, boys in Quebec all prayed to God to help them play as well as Maurice Richard.

Back now to small town Saskatchewan and the rest of Canada. Almost unbelievably, there are some 132 Junior A hockey teams in Canada today.

In that icy cold instant on a snowy day in Saskatchewan, the fragility of life smacked us once more. We have all experienced different emotions since the news broke. Now, the sentencing hearing of the truck driver who blew through the stop sign, leaving no skid marks, is dominating the news in Canada. He was heading west, into the setting sun, in the cab of a tractor-trailer loaded with peat moss.

Earlier this month, a remorseful Jaskirat Singh Sidhu pleaded guilty to all 16 charges of dangerous driving causing death, and all 13 counts of dangerous driving causing harm. He has been truly remorseful, and wanted to spare the families and all Canadians the anguish and expense a long trial would bring.

I think Mr. Sidhu is a good man, and a good Canadian. We are fortunate he is one of us.

The majority of the seventy nine heart wrenching Victim Impact Statements have offered forgiveness. Most know he had no evil in his heart. Investigators proved there was no alcohol, drugs or distracted driving involved.

Of course people will still ask, “Why didn’t he stop?”

We will never know.

Please permit me to present my theory. Repeat, it’s only my theory. Like many recent immigrants, Jaskirat Sidhu may have been working two jobs, perhaps long days, to support himself in his new country. This has been the story of immigration in Canada, as immigrants from so many countries have come here to make our country the country of the future for their families.

Many of us, including yer humble scribe, have nodded off at the wheel, perhaps for several seconds. “But for the grace of God,” these incidents could have ended tragically.

Remember, this horrible crash happened at the intersection of two quiet country roads. Perhaps two, three or four kilometres since the last stop sign. Our Canadian prairies , they are big. The land of endless skies. Driving long hours, into the sun, many of us have awakened with a start, still on the asphalt, or touching the shoulder.

As we follow this story from Humboldt, out West, we may ask what can we possibly learn? Already, several good things have happened.

Bernadine and Toby Boulet, heartbroken, are proud that their 21 year old son Logan, a big, strapping defenceman from Lethbridge, was a pre-registered organ donor. Six Canadians are alive today because of his donation. Since this news became public, over 100,000 of us have registered. Have you? Just call 1-800-263-2833.

Should Canada have an “Opt Out” policy, instead of “Opt In?” Many countries use Opt Out, and thousands and thousands of lives have been saved.

Seatbelt legislation has been expedited for both school buses, highway coaches, and trains. Duh, how about it, Go Transit?

Truck Driver training and commercial regulations have been modified, providing safer roads for all of us.

The reaction of most Canadians, and the love and respect generally shown to a new Canadian, have been gratifying. This has been an example of what makes Canada Canada, and what makes Canadians Canadians.

Let us all make an effort to perform regular random acts of kindness, with family, friends and strangers.

We are so fortunate to live in Canada. In 2019.

ross@nfwhm.com

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