New Brunswick

NB Southern Railway will stand trial next year on 24 charges related to oil transport

The charges stem from a Transport Canada investigation triggered by the Lac-Mégantic derailment and fire that killed 47 people in the Quebec town in 2013. The J.D. Irving Ltd. subsidiary pleaded not guilty to all charges.

Subsidiary of J.D. Irving Ltd. pleaded not guilty in April

The investigation into NB Southern Railway, a subsidiary of J.D. Irving Ltd., was triggered by investigations into the devastating train derailment in Lac-Mégantic, Que., five years ago. (NB Southern Railway)

NB Southern Railway will face a five-week trial in Saint John next March on 24 charges related to the transportation of oil.

The company, a subsidiary of J.D. Irving Ltd., pleaded not guilty to all charges on April 6.

The trial will start March 25, 2019, and the Crown asked the court on Wednesday for three weeks to present its arguments. 

NB Southern said it needed seven days to present its side.

Catherine Lahey, the lawyer representing NB Southern Railway, is seen outside the Saint John Law Courts. The defence said it needed seven days to present its arguments. (Brian Chisholm/CBC)

An earlier start date of Jan. 7, 2019, was contemplated, but the Crown said it had two key witnesses who could not be available in February.

One of those witnesses was also unavailable in March.

A court date of Nov. 27, 2018, was also set aside to resolve any issues before the trial begins.

Guylaine Basque, legal counsel for the Public Prosecution Service of Canada, leaves the Saint John Law Courts. (Brian Chisholm/CBC)

Prosecutor Guylaine Basque of Moncton advised the court that a francophone interpreter will be required for some portion of the trial, which will be held in English.

Lac-Mégantic derailment 

The Public Prosecution Service of Canada says the charges stem from a Transport Canada investigation triggered by the Lac-Mégantic derailment and fire that killed 47 people in Quebec in 2013.

Twelve of the charges under the Transportation of Dangerous Goods Act relate to failing to create proper shipping documents for the purpose of transporting petroleum crude oil.

The rail cars full of crude that exploded in Lac-Mégantic, Que., in July were destined for Irving Oil's refinery in Saint John. (CBC)

The other 12 charges relate to having unqualified personnel "offer for transport dangerous goods … to wit: petroleum crude oil," according to the informant, Transport Canada inspector Marc Grignon.

The alleged offences occurred between Nov. 3, 2012, and July 5, 2013.

During that period, about 14,000 cars of crude oil were transported for Irving Oil, according to the Crown.

On Oct. 26, 2017, Irving Oil was ordered to pay $4 million after pleading guilty to 34 offences under the Transportation of Dangerous Goods Act.

About $3.6 million of that money was directed to research programs in the field of safety standards. Another $400,000 was paid in fines.

In addition, Irving Oil was ordered to submit a plan of corrective measures with Transport Canada.

CBC News requested a copy of that plan but was denied.

Transport Canada advised that the corrective action is protected under Canada's privacy laws and the Access to Information Act.