New charges were laid Monday against six people and two companies in relation to the 2013 rail disaster in Lac-Mégantic, Que., and Transport Minister Lisa Raitt says more charges could be on the way.
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Six people employed by the rail company at the time of the incident, including its president, are facing two charges each of failing to ensure the train was properly braked before it was left unmanned for the night.
'The point of it all is, we will prosecute those who are to blame in this matter and it doesn't matter how long it takes.' — Transport Minister Lisa Raitt
A conviction carries a maximum fine of $50,000, a maximum jail term of six months, or both.
Montreal Maine & Atlantic Canada Co. and Montreal Maine & Atlantic Canada Railway Ltd. are facing the same charges.
The charges come nearly two years after an MM&A train carrying 72 tanker cars full of oil derailed and exploded in the centre of the Quebec town of Lac-Mégantic, killing 47 people.
The federal government issued a notice saying charges were laid under the Railway Safety Act and the Fisheries Act.
"Transport Canada's investigation under the Railway Safety Act found that an insufficient number of hand brakes were applied to the train and that the hand brakes were not tested properly," the statement said.
The statement also cited Environment Canada's investigation into the depositing of a "deleterious substance into fish-bearing waters with the release of crude oil into the immediate environment of Lac-Mégantic and the Chaudière River."
Investigation continues, Raitt says
Federal Transport Minister Lisa Raitt said the charges show Transport Canada inspectors "took great diligence."
"They did a smart investigation, it took a while," she said Monday on CBC's Power & Politics.
Raitt also said there may be more charges on the way, explaining that another investigation is underway pertaining to the Transportation of Dangerous Goods Act.
"You've seen the charges come forth on one, there's still another investigation that is outstanding," she said.
"But the point of it all is, we will prosecute those who are to blame in this matter and it doesn't matter how long it takes."
The six individuals facing charges are:
- Robert C. Grindrod, chief executive officer and president.
- Lynne Labonté, general manager of transportation.
- Kenneth Strout, director of operating practices.
- Mike Horan, assistant director.
- Jean Demaître, manager of train operations.
- Thomas Harding, train engineer.
Those six, along with railway traffic controller Richard Labrie, each face a federal Fisheries Act charge for the crude oil that flowed into Lac-Mégantic and the Chaudière River after the accident. The maximum penalty on that charge is a $1-million fine.
All those charged will appear in court in Lac-Megantic on Nov. 12.
Harding, Demaître and railway traffic controller Richard Labrie were previously charged with 47 counts of criminal negligence causing death.
Thomas Walsh, the lawyer representing Harding, questioned the timing of the charges.
"Why them? Why now?" Walsh said.
"We're nearing the second anniversary, and Transport Canada is obviously trying to look active, trying to look like they're doing something."
The charges as they appear on the summons:
(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 offence 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.