B.C. man to be deported after causing flight to divert to Winnipeg in June
Published Thursday, July 23, 2020 11:33AM CST Last Updated Thursday, July 23, 2020 5:02PM CST
WINNIPEG -- A B.C. man will be deported to India after his belligerent behaviour on a WestJet flight last month forced it to divert to Winnipeg.
The man was the first person in Canada charged with failing to follow the flight crew’s instructions to wear a protective face mask.
While that charge was stayed, the Surrey resident pleaded guilty to two other offences: mischief and smoking on a plane.
Balvir Singh, 59, left court wearing a protective face mask, something a judge heard he repeatedly removed from his face while on the Jun. 14 flight from Vancouver to Toronto.
That’s only part of what landed Singh on the wrong side of the law when his behaviour forced the plane to divert to Winnipeg.
“Unfortunately he was met with some turmoil and he got himself in some situations that are a little bit troubling,” one of Singh’s lawyers, Gagandeep Kahlon, said outside court.
With the help of a Punjabi interpreter in court, Singh pleaded guilty to the charges of mischief and smoking.
He was sentenced to five days of time served and has been barred from air travel in Canada. Court heard the conviction means Singh will also be deported back to his home country of India, where his wife and daughter live.
“He’s very upset with the situation,” said Kahlon. “He’s happy that he’s able to move forward and he wanted to take responsibility at the earliest given time that he could, and that’s what we did for him here today.”
Singh’s lawyers told court he came to Canada 12 years ago but lacks supports here. They added he recently became homeless and lives with diabetes. Outside court they said he was on the flight to live with a relative in Ontario when the trouble began.
Prior to getting on the plane, the court heard Singh had been hospitalized, and at the time of the flight had low blood sugar and had been drinking — a combination Kahlon told court contributed to his behaviour.
Crown attorney Kirsty Elgert told the court Singh was repeatedly asked to wear his mask and he repeatedly refused. Elgert told court he used the overhead call button 15 times during the flight and that the flight crew became concerned about his “increasingly belligerent behaviour.”
“Another passenger on the flight came running to the back of the plane towards the crew. He indicated someone at the front of the plane was smoking a cigarette,” Elgert told court. “The crew rushed to the front of the plane and located Mr. Singh sitting in aisle seven with a lit cigarette in his hand.”
Elgert told the judge the pilot was notified and a decision was made to land in Winnipeg mid-flight where RCMP officers arrested Singh.
Court heard the diversion cost WestJet less than $5,000, but Elgert told the judge situations like this are often much more costly.
“The unruly behaviour on a plane that causes it to divert is a very, very serious matter and it’s taken very seriously,” Elgert told court.
The plane refuelled and departed for Toronto without Singh.
He’s spent the past 40 days in jail in Manitoba but has since been released from custody.
“When somebody acts up like that on a plane, it creates an issue for everybody, and so the consequences have to be serious,” Judge Kusham Sharma told Singh in court. “You’re going to be deported from the country. That’s a significant consequence.”
Court heard Singh can’t be deported right now due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
He’ll be staying in Winnipeg until his family can find some way other than an airplane to get him to Ontario where he’ll have to live before he’s deported.
While the charge for not wearing a face mask in this case was stayed, Transport Canada’s interim order requiring all passengers to wear protective masks remains in place.