Marc Garneau, Enough Is Enough

Train_in_Tunnel

A VIA Rail train exits the Turcot Tunnel in Montreal(file photo.)

by Jack Locke

I have a hard time forgiving Marc Garneau.

If Google can produce a car that drives without a driver, why can’t Canadian train drivers see people before they are killed on the tracks?

On June 10, when Cienna MacPherson, 17, and Joana Hofer, 18, were killed by a train in Lantz, Nova Scotia, I cursed Marc Garneau. That Garneau’s department, Transport Canada, fails to take bold action to prevent further deaths is shameful. Garneau’s failure as Minister of Transport is cause for reflection, if not resignation.

But Marc Garneau is not likely to resign.

On March 29 of this year, according to a Transport Canada tweet, Minister Garneau “met with members of the rail industry and stakeholders to discuss #RailSafety.” Big Canadian National deal. They politely chatted about railway safety and still Canadians die.

What is the point of meeting with the rail industry when trains continue to mow down Canadians every month?

According to Transportation Safety Board of Canada(TSB) statistics (http://www.tsb.gc.ca/eng/stats/rail/2016/04/r2016-04-t2.asp), in the first 4 months of 2016, there were 13 fatalities caused by trains hitting people, which the TSB labels as “trespassing.”

This label is repugnant, as it impugns wrongdoing by the victims. That’s an easy way for the Government of Canada to turn a blind eye and avoid responsibility and avert the urgent need to investigate these deaths. It is unconscionable to blame the dead victims. This is wrong and it must stop.

I know people will say that innocent young men and women must take ownership for their actions. Well, so do railway companies.

And if I can be frank, I find it really obnoxious for the Transportation Safety Board to tweet, as they did on June 8, “We investigate an occurrence when it can advance transportation safety and reduce risks.” That is patently untrue.

When 3 Montreal-area young men were killed by a VIA Rail train on Oct. 31, 2010, the government of the day quietly ducked their responsibility. Since that time, not a single transport minister (Chuck Strahl, Denis Lebel, nor Lisa Raitt) dared to stand up for Canadians on this issue. They ducked and dodged—not unlike the late great boxer Muhammad Ali—and were able to deflect criticism thrown against them.

Although Dylan Ford, Mitchell Bracken-Guenet, and Ricardo Conesa were killed by a VIA Rail train nearly 6 years ago, their deaths provided a pivotal opportunity for government to act. Yet nothing. VIA Rail must answer for why their train engineer never blew the train horn nor hit the brakes until after hitting these boys. Marc Garneau, if you have that answer you must make it public. If you do not have that answer, you must, should, pursue an answer.

No Minister of Transport was held accountable for the loss of 47 lives in Lac Megantic. Nor do additional train-related deaths seem to phase our government.

As Green Party leader Elizabeth May stated in 2011, there needs to be a Royal Commission to look into railway safety. The recent deaths in Lantz demands answers. And yet, we will watch how the Government of Canada responds. A smiling minister will outline what Canada is doing to improve railway safety and then more deaths will occur. Enough is enough.

It has been more than 5 months since I sent my Member of Parliament, Marc Garneau, an email requesting an opportunity to meet to discuss railway safety. I was concerned about railroad trains killing Canadians. Yet, only an automated reply.

“I believe the failure of Transport Canada and the Transportation Safety Board to investigate pedestrian/train accidents—the leading cause of death by trains—is an oversight that needs addressing. It is unacceptable to say these incidents are not preventable,” I wrote in my January 4, 2016  communication seeking a meeting.

Canadians deserve better. Canadians deserve a country that protects its citizens from death and danger.

Marc Garneau, are you listening?

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