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Charges made in connection with Lac-Mégantic train derailment

Written by Carolina Worrell, Senior Editor

Transport Canada has uncovered serious violations in connection with the horrific 2013 oil train derailment in Lac-Mégantic under the Railway Safety Act and the Fisheries Act, the department announced June 22, 2015.

An investigation under Canada’s Railway Safety Act found that an insufficient number of handbrakes were applied to the train and that the handbrakes were not tested properly.

Charges are being made against a number of people for violation of the Railway Safety Act in connection to the Lac-Mégantic derailment. Not all affected individuals have been served as this process may take several days.

The accused are: Montréal Maine & Atlantic Canada Co.; Montreal Maine & Atlantic Canada Railway Ltd; Robert C. Grindrod, Chief Executive Officer and President of The Montreal, Maine and Atlantic Railway Inc.; Lynne Ellen I. Labonté; Kenneth I. Strout; Thomas Harding; Jean Demaître; and Mike Horan.

All persons accused are being charged on two counts. The charges as they appear on the summons are as follows:

(1) On or about July 5th, 2013, did contravene Rule 112(a) of the Canadian Rail Operating Rules (CROR), in force pursuant to section 19 of the Railway Safety Act (RSA), R.S.C. (1985), c. 32 (4th Supp.), by omitting to apply a sufficient number of hand brakes when leaving equipment, to prevent it from moving, contrary to paragraph 41(2)(d) of the RSA, committing thereby an offense punishable on summary conviction pursuant to paragraph 41(2.1) of the Railway Safety Act.

(2) On or about July 5th, 2013, did contravene Rule 112(b) of the Canadian Rail Operating Rules (CROR), in force pursuant to section 19 of the Railway Safety Act (RSA), R.S.C. (1985), c. 32 (4th Supp.), by omitting, after applying hand brakes, to ensure that a sufficient retarding force was present to prevent the equipment from moving, contrary to paragraph 41(2)(d) of the RSA, committing thereby an offence punishable on summary conviction pursuant to paragraph 41(2.1) of the Railway Safety Act.

Under the Railway Safety Act, companies could be fined up to $1 million, and individuals could face a fine of up to $50,000 or up to six months in jail, or both. This applies per charge.

“Transport Canada takes the safety of the Canadian railway system very seriously by establishing strict rules, regulations and standards, such as the new tougher, more robust tank cars used for transporting oil,” Transport Canada said. “Following the accident, the department introduced event stricter requirements for railways to physically secure trains and reduce their speed when carrying dangerous goods in a highly urbanized area.”

Additionally, Environment Canada confirmed that a charge has been laid against the Canadian company Montreal Maine & Atlantic Canada Co. and the American company Montreal Maine & Atlantic Railway Ltd. and seven of their employees. The charge involves prohibited deposit of a deleterious substance, namely crude oil (following the train derailment in downtown Lac-Mégantic), in water frequented by fish, namely Lac Mégantic and the Chaudière River, in violation of subsection 36(3) of the Fisheries Act. 

All the individuals have not yet been served. Environment Canada would only disclose the names of individuals once they have been served.

An individual who contravenes subsection 36(3) of the Fisheries Act has committed an offense and is liable on conviction on indictment to a fine up to $1,000,000. A corporation that contravenes subsection 36(3) of the Fisheries Act is liable on conviction on indictment to a fine up to $1,000,000.

Those charged must appear before the court in Lac-Mégantic on Nov. 12, 2015, where it will then be up to the courts to determine fault.

“The actions taken by the Government of Canada in response to this tragedy is a testament to its efforts to continually improve both environmental security and rail safety for all Canadians,” the department said. “From the beginning, the Government of Canada stood by Lac-Mégantic and it remains committed to doing everything possible to help rebuild and restore this vibrant community.”

In the wake of the accident, the Government of Canada contributed more than C$155 million to support the community of Lac-Mégantic.

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