St-Henri train derailment: How do we prevent a disaster?

st-henri train derailment

Early Sunday morning, a train went off the tracks in St-Henri. Two locomotives and two wagons derailed near the intersection of St-Jacques and de Courcelle. Fortunately, they were only carrying grain and no one was hurt, though some diesel did spill. They were not carrying oil, but thinking about that prospect is more than a little unsettling for residents.

“It’s terrifying,” says Craig Sauvé, city councillor for St-Henri, Pointe St-Charles and Little Burgundy who also lives 500 meters from where the derailment happened, “one would hope that the CN would be a better corporate citizen in light of Lac Mégantic.”

So how do we ensure that something on the scale of Lac Mégantic doesn’t happen in such a densely populated area like Montreal, besides, of course, no-brainer though far-reaching solutions like not transporting so much oil? For starters, Sauvé suggests that residents put pressure on the federal government, which governs rail transport, to measure what’s being transported through our neighbourhoods.

He also pointed out that there is a more direct solution already at the disposal of the provincial government:

“For one thing,” he said, “the Gouvernment of Quebec can start applying article 8 of the Law concerning civil security.”

This law says, in a nutshell, that any person whose activities or property are generating major disaster risk is required to report this risk to the local municipality where the source of risk is. It’s not a perfect solution, but it’s a start and one that doesn’t require any additional regulation being passed.

“The Québec government,”  Sauvé commented, “can certainly do its part to ensure that its own proper laws are applied.”

With a train derailment so close to home for many of us and thoughts of Lac Mégantic still in our minds, it’s becoming clear that something needs to change before it’s too late, even if that something is incremental at best. To do nothing is to invite more of the same or much worse.

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