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A B.C. man whose unruly behaviour onboard a Toronto-bound flight caused it to be diverted to Winnipeg is now facing automatic deportation to his native India.
Balvir Singh, 59, pleaded guilty Thursday to smoking on a plane — a violation under the Canadian Aeronautics Act — and mischief to property and was sentenced to five days time served.
Court heard Singh was on a WestJet flight June 14 when his "belligerent" behaviour, including repeated refusals to comply with demands he wear a face mask, became a concern for the flight crew.
Flight attendants were discussing what to do with Singh when another passenger ran to the back of the plane to report Singh was smoking a cigarette in his seat, Crown attorney Kirsty Elgert told court.
The pilot was notified "and the decision was made to divert the plane mid-flight to Winnipeg," Elgert said.
According to WestJet, the cost of the diversion, which did not involve a lengthy delay, was under $5,000.
"Obviously, it could have been much more expensive," Elgert said.
Singh, who came to Canada 12 years ago, is now subject to automatic deportation and has exhausted all avenues of appeal.
Singh came to Canada for a better life, but has struggled since his arrival and most recently became homeless, his lawyer Gagandeep Kahlon told court.
He is diabetic, and prior to his WestJet flight had been hospitalized. At the time of his flight, Singh was suffering from low blood sugar and had been drinking, a combination that left him "not in a good place," Kahlon said.
Singh was granted bail shortly after his arrest but spent 40 days in custody because he could not satisfy his release requirements, Kahlon said.
Provincial court Judge Kusham Sharma said she was satisfied deportation was a "significant consequence" for Singh’s actions.
It’s very dangerous to not follow what the flight crew is saying or create a situation that distracts the pilot," Sharma said. "I understand you weren’t feeling well when you got on the plane. Drinking did not help that… (and) created a scary situation for everybody."
Court heard Singh’s deportation will be delayed due to the COVID-19 pandemic. He was ordered released to live with family in Toronto.
Winnipeg is a frequent landing point for diverted flights, given the city’s distance from other major airports, Winnipeg Airport Authority spokesman Tyler MacAfee previously told the Free Press.
In February, a man and woman from the United Kingdom were sentenced to 30 days in jail and fined $100,000 each after their drunken escapades aboard a plane bound for Los Cabos, Mexico, forced pilots to divert to Winnipeg.
Someone once said a journalist is just a reporter in a good suit. Dean Pritchard doesn’t own a good suit. But he knows a good lawsuit.
Updated on Thursday, July 23, 2020 at 7:35 PM CDT: Fixes typo in byline
8:06 PM: Fixes typo in story.
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