It was in a nondescript meeting room in an event center in Melfort, Sask., a year ago that Scott Thomas got to finally look directly into the eyes of the man who was driving the truck that killed his son. And what Scott Thomas saw when he confronted Jaskirat Singh Sidhu that day was a man much like himself – broken, overcome with grief and forever haunted by the tragedy of April 6, 2018, the day the Humboldt Broncos’ bus was hit by Sidhu’s semi en route to a playoff game. It was the greatest tragedy in Canadian sports history and irreversibly altered the lives of 29 families, 16 that lost a family member and 13 that were left to pick up the pieces of their shattered lives.
The philosopher Confucius once said that before you embark on a journey of revenge, dig two graves. Thomas knew there was nothing he could do to bring back his son, Evan, one of the 16 who died in the crash. He needed to find peace and his faith told him that he had to meet with Sidhu to tell that both Evan Thomas and his family had forgiven him for what he did. The night before he was to give his impact statement prior to Sidhu’s sentencing, Thomas delivered an unsealed letter to Sidhu’s lawyer that also contained a Broncos’ pendant with Evan’s No. 17 on the back. One of the first things Scott Thomas saw when he entered the room was that Sidhu was wearing the pendant on his necklace.
“He was down on one knee bawling like a child,” Thomas told TheHockeyNews.com. “I lifted him up and hugged him and we both cried.” In fact, Sidhu’s lawyer recently brought the story of the pendant up and Thomas asked him how he knew about it, since he wasn’t in the room when the two men met and, until now, Thomas hadn’t told anyone about it. “And he said, ‘Jaskirat still wears it and that’s basically what keeps him alive,’ ” Thomas said.
That moment of catharsis has led to Thomas exchanging emails with Sidhu and continuing the long road toward healing. And when Sidhu, a permanent resident of Canada at the time of the accident, submitted the paperwork to the Canadian Border Services Agency supporting his efforts to avoid being deported to his native India after he serves his prison sentence, among it was a letter of support from Scott Thomas. Sidhu was sentenced to eight years in prison in March, 2019 and is being held at the Bowden Institute, a medium-security prison in Alberta. He is eligible to apply for parole in September of this year after one-third of his sentence is complete.
Scott Thomas said he’s simply being true to his beliefs. He and his wife, Laurie, had always raised Evan and his sister, Jordyn, to see the value of empathy. But man, that’s a huge ask. As Thomas said, you don’t really know how you’re going to react to something like this until you have the misfortune of experiencing it. He knows that not all the members of the Broncos family – and that’s how the survivors refer to themselves – can’t find the well of empathy that Thomas has. And he’s OK with that. Everyone grieves and processes something like that differently and he’s knows there is no right or wrong way to deal with it. He simply knows what he has to do.
“I don’t have the energy for hatred, our family just doesn’t,” Thomas said. “For me to go on and function and to be the best father I can be to the one daughter I have left and to leave this place with a positive impact and do something for our son’s legacy…for us to move forward, the best thing for us to do is forgive. There are days when I want to scream and there are days I do scream at the world, but for us to move forward, the easiest path to that is forgiveness and compassion.”
Evan Thomas was 18 years old and was chasing his dreams when his life was taken from him on that barren strip of Saskatchewan highway. His father will never actually be able to accept what happened, but he plans on spending 50 more years in this world and he simply doesn’t possess the emotional bandwidth to spend that time mired in hatred. And he really believes that was part of the reason Evan was here.
“My son was such a unique individual and he was such an old soul,” Thomas said. “I’ve often thought he was put on this Earth to teach some of us some lessons and maybe my lesson was empathy. Maybe my lesson was forgiveness. There are probably a thousand more lessons, but I’m positive my son was here to teach me some lessons and I’m trying to do the best I can to figure those out. I’ve read that when you live through tragedy, you have an obligation to tell your story because somebody else is going to live that tragedy at some point. Maybe that’s what I’m doing.”
By all accounts, Scott Thomas is doing one hell of a job.