Jaskirat Singh Sidhu outside a Melfort, Sask. courtroom Jan. 8. His lawyer, Mark Brayford, said his client plead guilty to all charges in the Humboldt bus crash, saying Sidhu didn't want to make things worse by having a trial. Screenshot from Global News/Youtube

Editorial: A place for mercy

  • February 7, 2019

Of the thousands of words spoken last month inside a Saskatchewan courtroom, none were more profound than this simple declaration: I forgive you.

Christina Haugan’s husband Darcy, coach of the Humboldt Broncos junior hockey team, died along with 15 others last April 6 when the team bus slammed into a transport truck that had barrelled through a stop sign. The bus driver pleaded guilty to 16 counts of dangerous driving causing death and 13 more of causing bodily harm. Now Haugan’s widow was delivering a victim-impact statement at the driver’s sentencing hearing in a packed courtroom that some called the saddest place in Canada

The room was hushed. Turning towards Jaskirat Singh Sidhu, Haugan addressed him by his first name, respectfully, but speaking firmly she called his actions, while unintentional, incredibly negligent and irresponsible. Then she chose to look past her grief. 

“I want to tell you I forgive you,” she said. 

She wasn’t alone. Several family members and friends of other victims stepped forward to have their anger and grief recorded in the court record, but also to express forgiveness, or at least a willingness to try to get there. Some parents hugged the remorseful, pitiable 30-year-old man. 

Their actions were widely described as expressions of mercy and courage, which they were of course, but Christians would recognize something more — professions of faith. To forgive when it seems humanly impossible, to be merciful amid cries for vengeance, to be graceful in response to outrage, is giving powerful witness to one of Christianity’s core values.

These were authentic testaments from people who, given the pain and heartache they still must carry, would not have been judged harshly had they given voice to loathing and demanded retribution from the court. Instead, many forgave the tearful, repentant driver and a few wrapped him in their arms, surrounded him in compassion, and some even gathered him in among the tragedy’s circle of victims. 

One mother, Marilyn Cross, admitted she was not ready to forgive the man who caused her son’s death, but she told Sidhu she had moved away from hate and now grieved for him. “I grieve for the guilt you must carry for the rest of your days,” she said, as the driver sobbed.

A man who had given room and board to two of the Broncos players, one of whom died, told the court he knew almost every person who boarded the bus that day. But rather than demand a severe sentence he too chose to forgive. He asked the court to show mercy and not let Sidhu’s life be “ruined forever by his mistake.”

 With 16 dead and 13 injured, Sidhu will go to jail, which is proper. He is guilty, but as the court heard time and again, it is also proper that he be forgiven.

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