The union and lawyers representing two railway employees accused in the Lac-Megantic disaster are urging the Crown to drop the charges in light of recent findings by the Transportation Safety Board.
Engineer Tom Harding, railway traffic controller Richard Labrie and Jean Demaitre, the manager of train operations (and not a member of the union), each face 47 counts of criminal negligence causing death — one for each victim of last summer’s oil-train derailment in the Quebec town. A conviction carries a maximum life sentence.
It’s been determined the weak safety culture of a now-defunct railway company and poor government oversight contributed to an oil train explosion that killed 47 people in Quebec in 2013.
The Transportation Safety Board chairwoman, Wendy Tadros, said her departments report into the disaster determined 18 factors played a role, including a rail company that cut corners and a Canadian regulator (Transport Canada) that did not do proper safety audits.
“We’re asking the Crown to revise the charges against the workers implicated in Megantic,” Daniel Roy, Quebec director of the United Steelworkers, told a news conference. We can see who’s really responsible for this event, this whole tragedy – who really should be now looking for some qualified criminal defence.”
Attorney Thomas Walsh, who represents Harding, said his client’s actions amounted to “human error,” not “wanton and reckless disregard,” which he added is necessary for a criminal-negligence conviction.
Walsh is calling on authorities to read the TSB report closely and consider pressing charges against corporate and government officials.
“Who’s responsible for the system? Walsh asked. It’s not Thomas Harding. He works in that system.”
A spokesperson for the prosecutor’s office said the TSB report does not change anything about the police evidence that was already evaluated by the Crown.
Class action lawsuits are also pending.