Former Montreal Maine & Atlantic Railway employees Thomas Harding, right, Jean Demaitre, centre, and Richard Labrie are escorted by police to appear in court at Lake Megantic - 13 May 2014 Ryan Remiorz.
26 May 2014
Union Sets up Defence Fund for Rail Workers Charged in Lake Megantic Tragedy
Lake Megantic Quebec - A legal defence fund has been set up to assist two railway workers who are facing criminal charges in connection with last summer's train derailment in Lake Megantic.
The United Steelworkers union announced the creation of the fund on Monday, dubbing it the Justice for USW Rail Workers Fund and setting up a web site for online donations (www.justiceMetallosDuRail.org).
Train engineer Thomas Harding and railway traffic controller Richard Labrie have each been charged with 47 counts of criminal negligence causing death after a lengthy investigation carried out by the Quebec Police.
The two men made their first court appearance on 13 May 2014 in Lake Megantic.
Manager of train operations Jean Demaitre was also charged, but he is not named by the union as one of the beneficiaries of the defence fund.
"We are launching this fund in solidarity with these workers to ensure they have access to a full and complete defence," said Daniel Roy, the union's Quebec director.
"This type of trial can be very expensive and destroy lives. We are appealing to people's generosity to help ensure that these workers are not made scapegoats while those who are truly responsible for this tragedy come out of it without a scratch."
The company operating the train, Montreal Main & Atlantic Railway Ltd. (MMA) has also been charged.
In Monday's release, Roy said that the union believes that deregulation and poor management, not the workers on duty that night, were to blame for the tragedy.
"In the spring of 2012, when Denis Lebel was Minister of Transport, his department granted MMA an extremely rare authorization to run trains operated by only one worker. Curiously, it was at this time that the company decided to start carrying oil. What investigations were done at the time? How was train safety ensured? Why was this authorization granted when MMA had accumulated a number of infractions and its maintenance left much to be desired? Charging a pair of ordinary workers won't make these questions magically disappear."
The accused workers have been freed on various conditions pending their next court appearance on 11 Sep 2014.