The judge deciding the fate of a truck driver who caused the deadly Humboldt Broncos crash is a passionate former Crown prosecutor who once worked as a conservation officer and played on a boys hockey team while she was growing up in rural Saskatchewan.
Provincial court Judge Inez Cardinal is to hand down a sentence Friday for Jaskirat Singh Sidhu.
The 30-year-old Calgary truck driver blew through a stop sign and into the path of the junior hockey team’s bus near Tisdale, Sask., last April. Sixteen people died and 13 others were injured.
During an emotional sentencing hearing in January, Cardinal sat for four days in a makeshift courtroom in a gymnasium in Melfort, Sask., and listened to relatives of the people on the bus describe their pain and grief.
Lawyers argued that Sidhu, who pleaded guilty to 29 counts of dangerous driving, be sentenced anywhere from 1.5 years in jail to 10 years in prison.
Greg Brkich, a member of the legislature with the governing Saskatchewan Party, grew up with Cardinal in the village of Bladworth, south of Saskatoon.
“She was very intense,” Brkich told The Canadian Press. “When she wanted to do something she did it.”
The daughter of a grain buyer and a homemaker, Cardinal had 10 siblings and was involved in sports growing up, Brkich says. He remembers his 10-and-under boys hockey team needed more players and Cardinal ended up on the roster.
With an interest in the environment, she worked as a conservation officer and earned a diploma in renewable technology, but eventually settled on a law career.
She worked as a Crown prosecutor in Regina, La Ronge and Saskatoon.
And she was a teacher.
Willie Ermine helped hire Cardinal for a position as sessional lecturer in Indigenous law at the First Nations University of Canada in Prince Albert. She fit in well, he says.
“I always had the sense she really wanted to work with the students,” he says.
“She had a good mind for Indigeneity.”
In 2006, Cardinal became Saskatchewan’s first designated prosecutor for environmental offences.
“It was something very close to her heart,” says Matthew Miazga, a Crown prosecutor who worked with Cardinal in Saskatoon.
Miazga now does environmental prosecutions, but says Cardinal defined the role.
She did educational seminars with conservation officers, travelled across North America to talk about environmental law and worked with an organization focused on environmental crime, he says.
She also loved fishing and created elaborate wood carvings of game birds.
“I’m just laughing because I’m looking on my desk. I still get her subscription to the Western Canadian Game Warden (magazine),” he says.
“Maybe she’s wondering why she hasn’t got them for several years.”
Darrell Crabbe, executive director of the Saskatchewan Wildlife Federation, sat in on a few cases that Cardinal prosecuted. He credits her for helping increase fines and penalties for people guilty of environmental crimes such as illegal hunting and outfitting.
“Inez was instrumental in changing, I would say, the legal system’s attitudes towards the values of fish and wildlife,” he says.
Cardinal knows her way around a courtroom and is not the type to suffer fools, adds Miazga, who has appeared in front of her since she was appointed to the bench in Melfort in 2012.
He also remembers her playing in some office hockey matches.
“She could be a pretty tough opponent … and I seem to recall her being somebody you’d rather have on your team.”