‘I don’t want a trial:’ Truck driver in Humboldt Broncos crash pleads guilty

By Ryan McKenna

THE CANADIAN PRESS

MELFORT, Sask. _ The driver of a transport truck involved in a deadly crash with the Humboldt Broncos junior hockey team’s bus pleaded guilty Tuesday to all charges against him.

“I plead guilty, your honour,” Jaskirat Singh Sidhu said as he stood before a judge in a court in Melfort, Sask.

Sixteen people lost their lives and 13 players were injured when Sidhu’s semi-unit loaded with peat moss and the Broncos bus collided in rural Saskatchewan last April.

Sidhu was charged with 16 counts of dangerous driving causing death and 13 charges of dangerous driving causing bodily harm.

“His position to me was, ‘I just want to plead guilty. I don’t want you to plea bargain. I don’t want a trial,”’ Sidhu’s lawyer, Mark Brayford, said outside court, his client beside him with his head down.

“Mr. Sidhu advised me: ‘I don’t want to make things any worse. I can’t make things any better, but I certainly don’t want to make them worse by having a trial.”’

Brayford, who recently took on the case, said more evidence still needs to be handed over to the defence, but Sidhu wanted to avoid further delays.

“He wanted the families to know that he’s devastated by the grief that he’s caused them,” Brayford said. “And he’s overwhelmed by the expressions of sympathy and kindness that some of the families and players have expressed to him in spite of the fact their grief is entirely his fault.”

Scott Thomas, whose 18-year-old son Evan died in the crash, sat near Sidhu in court and said the guilty plea meant a lot to him.

“All I’ve ever told my kids is speaking about accountability and responsibility and to hear him use his own words to plead guilty, it’s powerful,” Thomas said, fighting his emotions outside court.  “Now we can more forward with the next part of this.”

Crown lawyer Thomas Healey said he might need up to five days for a sentencing hearing, which is to begin Jan. 28, and would not be commenting until after that. The maximum penalty for dangerous driving causing death is 14 years. It’s 10 years for dangerous driving causing bodily harm.

Michelle Straschnitzki, whose son Ryan was paralyzed in the crash, said she is worried the guilty plea will mean a lighter sentence.

“I’m glad he won’t be putting everyone through a lengthy, exhaustive and heartbreaking trial,” she told The Canadian Press. “However, I also hope that by doing so, he doesn’t get an absurdly reduced sentence as per our justice system.”

Thomas said he’s not worried about the time Sidhu could serve.

“When he said, ‘Guilty,’ to me, I have my closure,” he said.

“If he spends a day, if he spends 10 years, time is irrelevant. He was guilty. He acknowledged that. That’s all I needed to hear.

“The rest of the sentence doesn’t matter to me. It really doesn’t. It is not going to bring Evan back. I’ve got to spend the rest of my life with it. He’s got to spend the rest of his life with it.”

The Broncos were on their way to a playoff game in the Saskatchewan Junior Hockey League when their bus and Sidhu’s rig collided at an intersection not far from Tisdale, Sask.

The bus was travelling north on Highway 35 and the semi was westbound on Highway 335, which has a stop sign.

A safety review of the rural crossroads done by a consulting firm for the Saskatchewan government was released last month. It said sight lines are a safety concern at the spot.

A stand of trees, mostly on private property, obstructs the view of drivers approaching from the south and east the same directions the bus and semi-trailer were coming from when they collided, the review said.

It recommended negotiating with the landowner to remove the trees, and also suggested rumble strips, larger signs and painting  “Stop” and  “Stop Ahead” on the road.

The report’s authors determined that six collisions had taken place at the intersection between 1990 and 2017 and another 14 happened on roads nearby.

One of those collisions was deadly. In 1997, six people were killed when a pickup truck heading east failed to stop on Highway 335 and was hit by a southbound tractor-trailer.

In December, the Saskatchewan government further introduced mandatory training for semi-truck drivers. Starting in March, drivers seeking a Class 1 commercial licence are to undergo at least 121.5 hours of training.

Previously, Saskatchewan Government Insurance accredited driving schools but training was not mandatory.

The owner of the Calgary trucking company that hired Singh was also charged after the crash.

Sukhmander Singh of Adesh Deol Trucking faces eight charges relating to non-compliance with federal and provincial safety regulations.

IBC calling September storm, ‘likely the biggest tornado event in Canadian history

by: OttawaMatters Staff

More than 14,000 insurance claims have been made, related to tornadoes which touched down in Ottawa and Gatineau, and that number is rising.

Director of Consumer and Industry Relations with the IBC Ontario is calling the $295-million in total capital region tornado damage, unlike anything he’s ever seen.

“From the damage that I saw up in Ottawa, it appears that this will likely be the biggest event related to tornadoes, in Canadian history,” explained Pete Karageorgos.

Three twisters touched down in the region, while another three hit just north of the area back on September 21.

More than 14,000 insurance claims have been made in the aftermath, and Karageorgos expects that number to rise.

The Insurance Bureau of Canada says the tornadoes in Dunrobin and Arlington Woods caused more than $192-million in damages to homes, businesses and vehicles, while more than $102-million was reported in the Gatineau area.

Karageorgos added that the IBC expects these extreme weather incidents to get worse in the future.

“Since 2009, it’s about $1-billion a year, across Canada, of damage as a result of severe weather events,” he said. “And that’s 2009 — that jumped up from previous years where it was about $400,000 a year.”

This year, Ontario alone is set to surpass the $1-billion mark.

Dealing with adjusters, contractors can seem ‘unending’

Read more

Alterna offers emergency loans to Ottawa and Gatineau residents affected by tornadoes

Alterna Savings is offering emergency interest-free loans to their members affected by the tornadoes that took place in the Ottawa and Gatineau regions on Friday, September 21st. Alterna has also donated$50,000 to the Red Cross and hopes that other local businesses will be inspired to give generously.

“Extreme weather, like the two tornadoes that touched down in Ottawa and Gatineau, have been devastating and left others in hardship. We know that when disasters strike, not everyone has access to ready cash to handle the immediate expenses of either repairing damage to their homes or replacing homes completely torn from their foundation,” said Rob Paterson, President and CEO of Alterna. “To help, members can access up to $5,000 in credit if they need financial assistance right away and can take advantage of the first 90 days without interest. After 90 days, a low-interest base rate will apply on terms of 2-5 years, with the option to pre-pay at any time without penalty. Interested applicants will need to visit a branch to review terms and conditions before signing.”

“It can take some time for insurance to pay out, and not all homeowners even have home insurance that covers damage resulting from tornadoes and other extreme weather. The 90-day interest-free grace period gives people time to make financial arrangements,” said Paterson.

Alterna Savings has a strong history of helping members and communities at a grassroots level – a legacy which began over 110 years ago when Alterna became Ontario’s first credit union. Recent examples include providing support for federal employees impacted by Phoenix payroll issues and creating emergency loans for residents affected by the 2017 Ontario and Quebec spring floods.

“It’s about helping to support our communities, and we’re here to help”, says Paterson. “With many homes left in ruins, we are particularly concerned about what people need today in order to feel safe. Even if someone isn’t an Alterna member, we’re happy to talk.”

Those affected by the Ottawa and Gatineau tornadoes are encouraged to call 1-877-560-0100 to set up an appointment at one of the Alterna branches and to confirm branch availability. Alterna Savings serves communities across Ontario and in the Gatineau region of Quebec.

You can find a list of branches at Alterna.ca.

About the Alterna Financial Group

The Alterna Financial Group (Alterna) is celebrating 110 years of being the good in banking! Alterna is made up of Alterna Savings and Credit Union Limited and its wholly-owned subsidiary, Alterna Bank. Together, we have over $7.13 billion in assets under administration. Our members and customers benefit from industry leading online brokerage and investment management services and have access to the largest surcharge-free ATM network in Canada, with over 3,700 ATMs to serve them.

Alterna Savings has been charting new directions to help Ontarians and achieve their financial dreams and build strong, vibrant communities for more than a century. As the first full-service, member-owned co-operative financial institution outside Quebec, Alterna Savings shares our expertise with more than 158,000 members through a network of 32 credit union branches across Ontario, including our federated partner Peterborough Community Savings, a division of Alterna Savings and Credit Union Ltd.

Alterna Bank is one of the most innovative banks in Canada and the first to offer all Canadians an end-to-end digital mortgage experience. Customers also get fully-digital financial services that include our highly competitive high-interest eChequing, eSavings, RRSP and TFSA products available online and through mobile banking.

For more information please visit www.alterna.ca and www.alternabank.ca and connect with us on https://twitter.com/alternasavings.

SOURCE Alterna Savings and Credit Union

Insurance change bounces out recreational trampoline use at gymnastics clubs

CBC News

Fall programs are rolling out at gymnastics clubs across the city but kids and their parents will notice a difference this season because of an insurance issue.

Recreational trampoline use will no longer be an option, according to the Alberta Gymnastics Federation, which sent a memo to its member clubs in July.

Scott Hayes, president and CEO of the AGF, says the new policy is due to a change in the federation’s insurance coverage.

Underwriters recently informed the AGF that trampoline use was no longer going to be insured at the recreational and drop-in levels.

“We just basically had to revamp a lot of the programming just because birthday parties and drop-ins are such a huge component of their business,” he said.

“So they had to look at some internal restructuring and Alberta Gymnastics had to look at creating some alternate programming and ensuring that the safety coaching expectations and certification were revamped in order to match the changes.”

Jeremy Mosier of Pegasus Gymnastics says losing the recreational business hurts the bottom line.

“We just don’t offer classes. We offer drop-ins and we offer birthdays, which has been substantially hit. You know, a lot of people call and just want birthday parties on trampolines, and unfortunately we can no longer offer that anymore.”

Mosier’s gym and others still do drop-ins and parties but without trampolines.

The new regulations only apply to recreational trampoline use. Competitive athletes and those enrolled in tumbling classes are exempt. But insurance rates for competitive users have quadrupled to about $60 a year.

Source: CBC News

‘Looked at every aspect:’ Truck driver criminally charged in Broncos bus crash

By Dean Bennett

THE CANADIAN PRESS

The driver of a transport truck faces 29 criminal charges in a fatal collision that killed 16 people, including 10 players, with the Humboldt Broncos junior hockey team.

Thirteen other players were injured.

RCMP say Jaskirat Singh Sidhu, 29, is accused of dangerous driving causing death as well as causing bodily injury.

He was arrested Friday morning and was being held in custody pending a court appearance in Saskatchewan next week.

“Mr. Sidhu was arrested without incident at his Calgary residence,” RCMP Assistant Commissioner Curtis Zablocki told a news conference Friday in Regina.

Sidhu was charged exactly three months after the crash at a rural Saskatchewan intersection in the late afternoon of April 6.

The Broncos were on their way to a playoff game in Nipawin, Sask., when their bus and a semi-trailer carrying peat moss collided.

The truck driver was not hurt. He was taken into custody after the crash, but was released the same night.

RCMP said they will not release any details of the investigation or what they believe happened. The only thing the Mounties have said to this point is that the truck was in the intersection when the collision occurred.

In April, police said they had recovered driver log books along with engine control modules that had been sent to California for further analysis.

RCMP Supt. Derek Williams said their probe was exhaustive and included 60 core investigators combing through records, interviewing five dozen witnesses and using 3D technology to determine what happened.

“In order to lay these charges, we require evidence the motor vehicle was being operated in a manner that is dangerous to the public,” said Williams.

“We’ve looked at every aspect of the collision, including speed of the vehicles, point of impact, position of the vehicles, impairment, road and weather conditions and witness evidence.

“Every piece of information was carefully examined.”

Each of the 16 counts of dangerous driving causing death carries a maximum penalty of 14 years in prison. The 13 counts of dangerous driving causing bodily harm could garner 10 years each.

Tom Straschnitzki, whose son Ryan was paralyzed from the chest down, said he was relieved charges were laid.

“It’s finally come to charges being laid, so we are very happy about that because we don’t want that to be ignored at all,” Straschnitzki told The Canadian Press.

“It should put a little closure to the first step and the second step is … let’s see what the courts do and find out what exactly happened.

“I think that’s what people want to know. What exactly happened? How it did happen and why it happened.”

Straschnitzki said he and his wife, Michelle, hadn’t thought much about charges in the three months since the crash.

“We were just too focused on Ryan and just had the faith in the RCMP that they did a lot of hard work to get it done. I guess we’ll just wait and see in the courts.”

Sukhmander Singh, owner of the Calgary-based trucking company that employed Sidhu, said in April that the driver was going to the doctor and receiving counselling.

Singh said he basically went out of business after the crash because Alberta Transportation ordered his company, Adesh Deol Trucking Ltd., to keep its only other truck off the road.

On Friday, Transportation Minister Brian Mason said ways to improve trucking safety could be announced within two weeks and will include qualification and training of drivers of large vehicles, how to test drivers in all licence categories and how better to regulate the trucking industry.

He also said results of a review of intersection safety on Alberta’s highways should be available by the end of the summer.

Saskatchewan’s Crown insurance company said in an internal memo sent to driving instructors after the crash in April that a mandatory training plan should be in place by next year.

The memo from Saskatchewan Government Insurance said details were still being worked out, but the curriculum was to include at least 70 hours of training in the classroom, yard and behind the wheel.

The tragedy sparked an outpouring of emotion across Canada with offers of money and other support for the victims and families involved. A GoFundMe campaign raised just over $15 million for the survivors and the families of those who died.

The Humboldt Broncos released a statement Friday saying the organization has faith in the justice system and will be watching as the court process unfolds.

“Our primary focus continues to be supporting the survivors, families and others that were directly impacted by the tragedy on April 6th,” the team said. “We will have no further comment on the investigation or the resulting charges until the process has concluded.”

_ With files from Bill Graveland in Calgary and Samantha Maciag in Regina

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