'Not everybody can get there': Psychologist talks forgiveness in the Humboldt Broncos bus crash

As heard in court this week, some of those affected by the Humboldt Broncos bus crash forgave the driver who caused the crash. Others did not.

'This is still normal grief,' says Stanford University Forgiveness Projects director Fred Luskin

Jaskirat Singh Sidhu pleaded guilty to 16 counts of dangerous driving causing death and 13 counts of dangerous driving causing bodily harm. (The Canadian Press)

As heard in a Melfort, Sask., court during the sentencing hearing for Jaskirat Singh Sidhu this week, some of those affected by the Humboldt Broncos bus crash forgave the driver who caused the crash. Others did not.

Sixteen people died in the crash involving the Saskatchewan hockey team's bus on April 6, 2018. Thirteen were injured. This past week, victim impact statements were read in court. 

Fred Luskin is the director of the Stanford University Forgiveness Projects — a series of workshops and research projects centred around forgiveness training. He said the event is still raw, even 10 months on, and that the range of emotions between the families is normal. 

"It hasn't even been a year. For a trauma that horrendous and a wound that unexpected, this is still normal grief," he said.

He said people deal with this sort of situation in one of two ways. 

"One is to hold on tight and say, 'I'm never going to adapt to the change, this is too awful for me to make peace with,' and they're doing that to try to stay in mental control of what's going on," he said. 

"The other way is to recognize that life with never be the same, and how do I make the best out of it?"

Christina Haugan, wife of coach Darcy Haugan — who died in the Humboldt hockey team bus crash — arrives for the second day of sentencing hearing for truck driver Jaskirat Singh Sidhu on Tuesday. (Ryan Remiorz/Canadian Press)

Christina Haugan, the wife of Broncos coach Darcy Haugan, was among those who offered forgiveness in court for Sidhu, the semi driver who pleaded guilty to 16 counts of dangerous driving causing death and 13 counts of dangerous driving causing bodily harm in connection with the crash.

"I forgive you," she said. Her husband was among those killed in the crash.

"The injustice and sadness is still there, but I've been forgiven for things I have done. If you ever want to know more about Darcy, come ask me."

Paul Jefferson — the billet parent of Broncos players Parker Tobin, who died in the crash, and Tyler Smith, who was seriously injured — also echoed Haugan's words of forgiveness.

"When he pled guilty, it was easier for me to say, 'I forgive,'" Jefferson told reporters outside of court. "But I also know that grief is a journey, and I need to forgive to move on."

'I have no forgiveness'

The family of Conner Lukan also read their statements. 

"I have no forgiveness," said Lukan's mother Robin Lukan. "I want you to know you have forever destroyed the family I worked to create — I want you to feel the pain you have caused.… I will never forgive this wrong."

Carol Brons, the mother of Broncos athletic therapist Dayna Brons — who was also a victim of the crash — said she hasn't forgiven Sidhu, but is trying to, because her daughter would have wanted that.

The Humboldt Broncos. (Humboldt Broncos/Twitter)

Luskin said he understands why some people have already forgiven Sidhu in their process.

"When you realize that there's nothing you can do to alter the reality and the only thing you can do is alter your own, the only thing that feels OK is to try to at least be at peace and extend whatever goodwill you can."

For those who haven't yet forgiven or who won't get to that place, Luskin said it's important to acknowledge that feeling as valid as well. 

"I can tell you, though, having spoken to so many people who have gotten there that they feel like a boulder has been taken off their back," he said. 

"But the caution I have is we can't chain people who don't get there and we have to understand the value of kind of holding on, because some things are too hard for some people to encompass."

With files from CBC Radio's The Morning Edition and Jason Warick


To encourage thoughtful and respectful conversations, first and last names will appear with each submission to CBC/Radio-Canada's online communities (except in children and youth-oriented communities). Pseudonyms will no longer be permitted.

By submitting a comment, you accept that CBC has the right to reproduce and publish that comment in whole or in part, in any manner CBC chooses. Please note that CBC does not endorse the opinions expressed in comments. Comments on this story are moderated according to our Submission Guidelines. Comments are welcome while open. We reserve the right to close comments at any time.

Become a CBC Member

Join the conversationCreate account

Already have an account?