Bruce Campbell, York University, Canada and Jennifer Quaid, L’Université d’Ottawa/University of Ottawa
The ongoing environmental tragedy in Ohio caused by the derailment of a Norfolk Southern train carrying hazardous materials — which sent toxic chemicals into the air and local waterways — will take a long time to clean up. And if a similar rail tragedy in Canada is an example, it could take even longer for residents to get answers about the cause and true damage of the accident.
Almost a decade has passed since a runaway train hauling 72 tank cars laden with highly volatile Bakken shale oil derailed and exploded in Lac-Mégantic — a small Québec town near the border with Maine — killing 47 people, orphaning 26 children, spilling six million litres of toxic material and destroying the town centre.
The accident on July 6, 2013, was the worst industrial disaster on Canadian soil in over a century. A decade later, it has left the community with a legacy of economic, health and environmental effects.
A rail bypass project, originally conceived as means of healing, has prolonged the trauma that has plagued the Lac-Mégantic community since that catastrophic night.
Construction of the bypass still has not begun. The route preferred by Canadian Pacific Railway Ltd., which will own the bypass upon completion, and supported by the federal government, has created deep divisions within the surrounding towns.
Citizens of the neighbouring town of Frontenac recently voted overwhelmingly against the proposed route. Voters expressed concern about potential negative environmental and property damage not properly addressed by Transport Canada.
The dispute over the bypass is just one of the ongoing issues for the citizens of Lac-Mégantic. Their latest quest for justice through the courts came to a disheartening end on Dec. 14, 2022.
Justice Martin Bureau of the Superior Court of Québec found that Canadian Pacific Railway could not be held liable for damages suffered by the victims of the Lac-Mégantic disaster. The plaintiffs have appealed the decision.
Raises questions about accountability
This case raises serious questions about who should be accountable for complex events that result in catastrophic harm. It’s also a reminder that private litigation is an imperfect means of understanding how disasters happen and what should be done to better protect public interest in the future. Only a public inquiry can do that.
Continua a leggere “Rail accidents: Public safety and accountability suffer because of deregulation”