Civility has not been lost. The people involved in the Humboldt Broncos disaster are the proof. They have stayed noble throughout the ordeal - and in doing so, have allowed others to follow their example.
Last week, Jaskirat Sidhu, the driver of the semi-truck that collided with the Broncos’ bus on that fateful April day, was back in court in Melfort.
Sidhu had barely spoken throughout court proceedings, but that day said perhaps the five most impactful words of the entire Broncos ordeal.
“I plead guilty, your honour,” he said. Sidhu expressed remorse for what happened, accepted responsibility and prevented the case from going to trial.
Following the plea, Scott Thomas, the father of late Bronco Evan Thomas, stepped to the media scrum outside the courthouse and spoke his mind.
When I heard Thomas’ words, I was in awe of his social grace. Despite the horror of what happened that day and the personal hell he and others had experienced in losing a child, Thomas, speaking on behalf of the families, was rational and compassionate.
Thomas even thanked Sidhu for his decision to plead guilty instead of dragging things out by going to trial, saying it didn’t matter to him how long Sidhu spent in jail for his role in the tragedy.
If Thomas or any other parent stepped up to the podium during the court case and foamed at the mouth with anger, I doubt anybody would blame them. I know I wouldn’t. Thomas was the bigger man in a situation that would have shrunk anyone else.
We could also learn a lesson from Broncos team president Jamie Brockman, who commended Sidhu for accepting responsibility in a statement issued by the team. We could learn a lesson from other family members, including Toby Boulet, whose son Logan died as a result of the crash. Boulet told the Saskatoon StarPhoenix that he “appreciated [Sidhu’s] remorsefulness” and also thanked him for not taking the case to trial. Myles Shumlanski, whose son Nick – a man Flin Flonners know well from his time with the Bombers – was on the bus and who was one of the first people to arrive at the site of the wreck, said the plea was key in helping people rebuild their lives.
We live in a world where it’s easy to believe that civility has been forgotten. We see it in political culture. We see it online. Being rude means being heard, and from time to time, being polite and honourable can get lost in the din.
After any news story about a crime is posted online, no matter how minor, somebody shows up in the comments arguing for all manner of sadism. I was afraid, going into Sidhu’s court case, that people would call for his head. I was afraid that the families affected would be overcome with righteous rage, hoping he would be thrown in jail for life for what was an unintentional tragedy, perhaps even calling for extreme measures. If I had a loved one on that bus, deep down, I suspect that’s what I would want. I hope I never find out.
Of course, there were a few howling yahoos – there almost always are – but to my great surprise, the reaction to Sidhu was not hate or contempt. It was something closer to understanding.
I realize that Jaskirat Sidhu’s actions led to the deaths of 16 people and irreversible damage to the 13 others who made it out. We should never forget that.
However, we should not respond to that with anger or with hate. He has accepted his fate, as have the people affected most by the accident. Rage will not rewind time and have that truck stop short of the highway.
The best thing to do now is to continue on and hope that the lessons learned through the entire Broncos nightmare can keep something similar from ever happening again.
Godspeed to Scott Thomas, to Boulet, to Shumlanski and Brockman. May we not only never forget what happened to your boys, but also learn a thing or five from your forgiveness.