Archive for October, 2014

VIA Train Tragedy: a case in ineptitude

October 29, 2014

by Jack Locke

As it approaches the fourth anniversary of the deaths of Dylan Ford, Mitchell Bracken-Guenet, and Ricardo Conesa, fatally struck by a VIA Rail train on Oct 31, 2010, questions remain unanswered in my investigation into their demise.

“VIA passenger train P668-31-30, proceeding eastward and approaching the Turcot tunnel at mile 4.23 at 70 MPH on the South main track of CN’s Montreal Subdivision, struck and fatally injured 3 young men,” noted the federal Transportation Safety Board in a preliminary report.

But the report failed to answer whether the train engineer was drunk, was distracted momentarily by being on his cell phone, or had fallen asleep. The train had arrived 3 hours late, at 3 AM, when the train killed the boys.

Why was the train travelling at 70 MPH just before it was to enter the Turcot Tunnel?

A VIA Rail's exiting the Turcot Tunnel(file photo.)

A VIA Rail’s exiting the Turcot Tunnel. (file photo)

Why had the train engineer not seen the boys, had not applied his brakes, had not blown his horn?

Why did VIA Rail refuse my request for information on January 14, 2011?

Why have three concurrent Ministers of Transportation not looked into this tragedy? Or refused to disclose what they know?

Chuck Strahl.

Former Transport Minister Chuck Strahl.

Denis Lebel.

Former Transport Minister Denis Lebel.

Current Transport Minister Lisa Raitt.

Current Transport Minister Lisa Raitt.

Why did Quebec coroner, Krystyna Pecko, not do a complete examination of the operation of the train, but examined why the train had poor illumination of the track?

Why did the Montreal Police Service refuse to disclose whether they had conducted an investigation, when they were asked? Yet, disclosed that they had concluded their investigation.

After four years of probing into this sad occurrence, I still have no conclusive answer as to why this tragedy occurred.

Author of Technocreep suggests Canadians be “Info-stingy”

October 21, 2014

by Jack Locke

I live in Westmount, Quebec. It’s a friendly sort of place, but sometimes it’s not. That’s why the city council has authorized an emergency notification system. But their CodeRED emergency notification program ought to raise a REDflag.

Once information travels to the US it is subject to laws such as the US Patriot Act,” says Thomas P. Keenan, author of the new book, Technocreep, the surrender of privacy and the capitalization of intimacy.

Westmount’s CodeRed program lets citizens sign up for the service by clicking on a link on the city’s website. Registants are then directed to the CodeRED website, whose company Emergency Communications Network is based in Ormond Beach, Florida. The company advises people who register that the information provided will become the property of the company.

This information will remain the property of ECN and will not be disclosed unless compelled to do so by a court of sufficient jurisdiction,” states ECN’s website. But it’s not that straightforward.

In an age of runaway technology, should Westmount direct its citizens to give their names, addresses, phone numbers, and email addresses to an American company in order to receive emergency communications?

In an email to Lockeblog, Keenan says there’s little protection for privacy once the data is given.

Clearly a US court could authorize access and based on Snowden revelations there is a decent chance the traffic could just be intercepted and saved by the NSA,” writes Keenan, who also teaches at the University of Calgary.

However, if the information were kept on the Canadian side of the border, Canadian law and privacy protection would be localized. Citizens would only have to worry about the Canadian Security Intelligence Service and the RCMP poking into the database containing Westmount registrants’ information. While this alone is worrisome, transferring data stateside is rife with dangers.

Sometimes American intelligence authorities get the story wrong. A prime example is the case of Maher Arar, a dual Canadian/Syrian citizen who was detained by American authorities on the basis of information provided by the RCMP. In 2002, Arar was travelling from Montreal to Tunisia, with a stopover in New York. After being detained for two weeks, Arar was deported to Syria where he was tortured. Eventually, he was returned to Canada and awarded $10.5 million by the Canadian government for providing erroneous or prejudicial information to the Americans, and for the injuries he suffered as a result.

It’s why transferring Westmounters’ information to an American company—which may technocreep into the hands of American authorities—is not a great idea. Yet, having the information in the hands of local authorities may not be so great either.

In the current climate of war, terrorism, and absurd measures to protect national security, Canadians ought be concerned about where their private information is being held.

Any action against the person’s home would have to be carried out by Canadian law enforcement, e.g. RCMP.  I guess if they decided the house was an ISIS training facility they might beat down the door,” writes Keenan.

According to Keenan, Westmount citizens not wanting to share information with Americans could cloak their identity while still receiving CodeRED updates.

I tell people in the book to be info-stingy so I see no reasons why, if the purpose is to get an emergency alert, you could not give your name as I.P. Freely or Seymour Butts (i.e. not your real name,)” adds Keenan.

BLOGGER’S NOTE: A query to ECN was not answered prior to this post being uploaded.

Surely Hellbound

October 19, 2014

(for M.H.)

We live in a surely hellbound land
Where there’s squalid help for the jobless and
the poor. But swift & horrific grants
to industrial, somewhat heinous, plants
to ensure spartan hands and heirs
offer scandalous handling of affairs.

CODE RED a threat to Canadians’ privacy

October 16, 2014

by Jack Locke

It is ostensibly a system to notify Westmount, Quebec citizens of a local emergency, but CODE RED data becomes the property of Emergency Communications Network(ECN), an American company subject to American intelligence and national security laws.

“Originally designed to enable local government officials to record, send and track personalized messages to thousands of residents in minutes, CodeRED’s user base has grown to include institutions of higher education and utility companies,” says ECN’s website.

But the names, addresses, phone numbers, and email addresses of those Westmounters who register for CODE RED become the property of ECN whose registered office is based in Ormond Beach, Florida.

It is an affront to the privacy of Canadians and may well violate privacy legal provisions in both Quebec and Canada.

Thanksgiving Math: 1+1=6

October 12, 2014

You start with one pumpkin.

You add one wicked baker.

Flour, shortening, water, and a rolling pin.

Pie Shell2

Some finesse, but not much.

Pie filling3

Spices and a food processor.

Pie Filled4

More filling.

Pie in Oven5

Some heat.

A few hours later...voila!

A few hours later…voila!

Poem submitted to the Competition Bureau: The purchase of Sun Media by Postmedia

October 9, 2014

by Jack Locke

The proposal by Postmedia to Acquire Sun Media’s English Language Newspapers and Digital Properties raises serious questions about a free press, monopolization of an industry, and the freedom of citizens to partner with newspapers in the expression of opinions.

The newspaper biz is not like shoe manufacturing, though both have certain things in common. The newspaper and information business allows for discussion of ideas, debate, and criticism. Normally, I would be in favour of media companies being not an industry that is subject to government review. A free press must not be constrained in any manner by the political machinations of Parliament.

In the same way that I would not want the government of Canada to restrict my blog writing, I cannot support restraint upon Postmedia’s purchase of Sun Media. And though there is little comparison between my blog and these large corporations, the principle of a free press must rule.

I submit that the purchase of Sun Media be allowed to proceed, moreover, that the Competition Bureau does not have jurisdiction over this transaction, monopolistic as it appears to be.

Modern Legend III

October 8, 2014

From sea to sea to sea

We see, pee, and disagree.

Modern Legend II

October 8, 2014

I have no opinion

On the state of our daft Dominion.

Modern Legend

October 8, 2014

Between poetry and journalism

lie little legends that lie a little.

Possible explanation for deaths of 3 Montreal teens

October 7, 2014

by Jack Locke

It’s not easy to explain the deaths of the three boys killed by a VIA Rail train nearly four years ago.

VIA Rail's time is nigh

VIA Rail’s time is nigh

At 3 AM, Oct 31, 2010, a VIA Rail passenger train was coming into Montreal from Toronto. It was three hours late, passengers on the train were tired(Witness on fateful train tells her story), and then it happened. The train travelling at approximately 113 kilometres per hour(70 mph) ran over three Montreal-area teens, killing them.

The train was just about to enter a section of track with a 56 kilometre per hour speed limit(Was deadly bullet train speeding?) The train engineer did not blow his horn, did not apply his brakes prior to hitting the boys.

TSB coats english_right

No investigation was conducted by the Canadian Transportation Safety Board (Transportation Safety Board fails Dylan, Mitch and Ricardo) to ascertain why the accident happened and what could be done to prevent similar future occurrences.

00_logospvm

The police did not find evidence of alcohol nor drugs, but another explanation may be found: fatigue. In a news story issued today, CBC reporter Dave Seglins writes that many train engineers have trouble keeping awake, Freight train drivers report falling asleep on the job. It’s a well-known occupational hazard.

And perhaps, it was the cause underlying the tragic deaths of three Montreal area teens, Dylan Ford, Mitchell Bracken-Guenet and Ricardo Conesa in the early morning hours of October 31, 2010.