Operation Lifesaver (OL) Canada on Sept. 22 announced that the city of Wemotaci in Quebec has been selected as the winner of its Roger Cyr Award for Communities and OL’s Columbia Committee Chair, Phil Breden, will receive the individual Roger Cyr Award.
Named after the not-for-profit’s founder, the Roger Cyr Awards for Public Rail Safety “recognize individuals and communities that are doing outstanding work to prevent deaths and injuries at rail crossings and as a result of trespassing on railway property,” according to OL Canada.
Breden joined OL as a Rail Safety Ambassador in 2018 and is currently the Chairperson of OL’s British Columbia Committee. Originally from New Zealand, he is a life-long train enthusiast who fell in love with the CPKC railway when he moved to Canada—which is one of the reasons he got involved with OL.
“Because of my love of trains, I don’t want people to get hurt,” Breden said. “Also, as a rail fan, you’re going out and photographing trains, videoing trains, and you’ve got to make sure that people aren’t getting too close to the railway tracks.”
“Phil is the epitome of the citizen Rail Safety Ambassador,” said OL Canada National Director of Operation Sarah Mayes. “He’s knowledgeable, passionate, and dedicated to OL and to spreading the rail safety message. He doesn’t hesitate to roll up his sleeves if his assistance is needed, and even a Vancouver snowstorm won’t deter him from educating others about rail safety. Phil is incredibly deserving of this award.”
According to OL Canada, Wemotaci’s commitment to rail safety stems from its first-hand experience of a rail tragedy. In 2018, an eight-year-old boy from the First Nation community was hit and killed by a train while playing on a railway bridge. Since then, Wemotaci has taken steps to ensure that community members of all ages understand the risks surrounding tracks and trains; OL Ambassadors have been invited to make presentations in Wemotaci schools during Rail Safety Week, and rail safety signage has also been installed in the community.
“The Wemotaci Police Service has made strong efforts to educate the Atikamekw community about the importance of rail safety. With this increase in education, we have seen significant positive shifts, and we are very grateful to the Wemotaci Police Service and to the entire Atikamekw community for their activism. We are proud to call them a true partner in rail safety,” said CN Chief of Police and Chief Security Officer Stephen Covey, who is also an OL Board member.
“OL Canada wishes to extend its congratulations and sincere thanks to both Phil Breden and the community of Wemotaci for their outstanding efforts in promoting rail safety in British Columbia and Quebec,” the organization stated in a release.