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July 11, 2013 - No. 84

Lac-Mégantic Tragedy

Crime in Lac-Mégantic

Lac-Mégantic Tragedy
Crime in Lac-Mégantic - Marxist-Leninist Party of Quebec
Some Facts
The Issue of the Air Brakes and Rail Safety - Interview, Brian Stevens,
National Representative, Canadian Auto Workers

The Irving Oil Connection - Nathan J. Freeman

Criminal Neglect Against Railworkers and People in Lac-Mégantic - Jack East
Never Again Lac-Mégantic! - Normand Chouinard

Lac-Mégantic Tragedy

Crime in Lac-Mégantic

The Marxist-Leninist Party of Quebec (PMLQ) expresses its outrage at the crime committed in Lac-Mégantic as a result of the utter disregard for the well-being of the people in transporting crude oil through the region, especially through populated areas.

We send our condolences to the families of Lac-Mégantic and Quebec who lost family members and extend our sincere sympathies to the injured and to the entire community which has lost its possessions and its entire historical heritage.

It is a crime of gigantic proportions for which those responsible must be held to account.

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Some Facts

Aid from across Quebec and beyond arrives.

The Lac-Mégantic tragedy raises a number of questions, including how safe is the transport of potentially dangerous material by railways across Quebec and Canada. But above all it brings attention to the issue of the control that these private monopolies have -- in this case, a railway monopoly -- over the people's lives, and their total impunity despite the potential to endanger public safety. One blogger, struck by grief and anger, wrote that the people of Lac-Mégantic should not have to pay one penny to rebuild the city and their lives.

The federal government is duty-bound to defend public right and hold the monopolies accountable for endangering people's lives. Instead, Federal Transport Minister Denis Lebel stated in the most nonchalant way in an July 9 Radio-Canada interview that "accidents happen." He then raised the fact that there has been a rapid increase in rail transport of hazardous products, as if to say that such tragedies are to be expected. The fact that technology and social consciousness can prevent such accidents is ignored. This way of speaking is unacceptable. The government must explain its relaxation of safety regulations and complacency in enforcement in light of this increasing traffic.

The time has come to put an end to this. The people reject the logic of the monopolies that they are "collateral damage" in the race for profits. These companies contribute nothing to the life of the regions or the communities and disappear from the scene when disaster strikes. It seems they are only interested in saving face and avoiding insurance claims. The monopolies and governments are quick to criminalize workers for defending their rights. Now it is the workers who must be quick and uncompromising to force these monopolies to be accountable and take the necessary measures. They must not be given the power of life and death over the workers and people!

Some of the facts of the case follow:

- The official number of people missing and considered to have died in the explosions and fires according to the Sûreté du Québec is 50. As of July 11, 24 bodies had been found of which only one has been positively identified. See www.supportlacmegantic.com.

- Two thousand of Lac-Mégantic's 6,000 inhabitants were evacuated over the weekend. The Red Cross set up a command post and shelter in the local high school where people affected by the crash and explosions can find help. On Monday, July 8, some of those who had to evacuate their homes were able to return and others are returning as municipal authorities confirm that their areas have been secured. Measures to provide shelter and help for all those who cannot go back to their homes or whose homes have been destroyed by the explosions and fires are continuing.

- The approximately 50 companies and plants in Lac-Mégantic had been closed since the beginning of the tragedy for safety reasons, notably because of the damaged sewer system. They were able to resume business on July 11.

Click to enlarge.

- The oil spill in the lake at Lac-Mégantic and the Chaudière River as a result of the derailment is considered serious but under control. Measures have been taken to prevent the oil from contaminating the drinking water, including setting up floating barriers. Authorities in Saint-Georges, 80 km downstream from Lac-Mégantic, have decided to draw the city's drinking water from a nearby lake instead of the Chaudière River as a temporary measure. Several other downstream municipalities between Lac-Mégantic and the St. Lawrence River have been forced to take similar measures. The city of Lévis across from Quebec City, at the confluence of the Chaudière and St. Lawrence Rivers, has built a temporary pipe to draw its drinking water from other sources.

- Help has arrived from all regions of Quebec, Canada and the northern United States, including firemen, volunteers, as well as people offering psychological and financial support.

Chronology of Events

- On Friday, July 5, the train from the Montreal, Maine & Atlantic Railway (MMA), with five engines and 72 cars, each car containing 100 tons of crude oil, stopped for the night at 11 pm in Nantes (population 1,136). The engineer went to a hotel after his shift, as he was supposed to do. It is not yet clear what the company's responsibility is in terms of attending to the train during the transition period between shifts. Around 11:30 pm a fire broke out in one of the engines. A representative of MMA was informed about the fire in Nantes around 11:50 pm and two company employees joined the firefighters who were there since 11:42 pm. Shortly after midnight the fire had been extinguished. Nantes Fire Chief Patrick Lambert said that a Sûreté du Québec officer was with the firefighters during their intervention and they had followed protocol. In an RDI interview, Lambert reiterated that the officer responsible for the intervention had contacted MMA and that two company employees working in the Lac-Mégantic area were at the scene and had confirmed that all was secure before the firefighters left. Lambert also confirmed that it was the firefighters who had shut down the engine. "This is the protocol and it is the MMA protocol," he stated, adding that "The protocols are established by the railway companies themselves." The reason for the fire in the engine has yet to be addressed.

- At 1:00 am, shortly after the departure of the firefighters and MMA employees, the train started down the slope leading from Nantes to Lac-Mégantic, gathering speed. The train hurtled out of control at speeds of up to 100 km/hour. When it hit the curve near Lac-Mégantic it was going way too fast and several cars exploded at 1:14 am.

- The president of MMA's parent company Rail World Inc., Ed Burkhardt, said in a July 8 CBC interview that when the firefighters put out the fire in the engine, this "caused the airbrakes to slowly lose pressure," which is why the train did not begin to move the minute the fire was extinguished. "Pressure was lost slowly for about an hour up to the point where the train started to roll on its own," he said. When questioned he had to admit that the two company employees had confirmed that the train had been secured before the firefighters left. He then proceeded to slander them saying  that "they should have been aware" that shutting down the engine would free the brakes.

- According to Doug Finnson, vice-president of the Teamsters Canada Rail Conference, a train has four different systems of brakes. Only one is useful when the convoy is stopped and left unattended, namely the hand brake, he said in an interview with La Presse. "There is one such brake on each car and on each engine," he explained. "It is set manually. It has nothing to do with the engine's compressor. It is the only brake that you can depend on when the train is stopped, and it is the one that's used when the train is left unattended."

- In Canada, the main rail transporters such as CN and CP use a crew of two. The trains that MMA uses to transport oil to New Brunswick are operated by a single engineer. The company was granted authorization by Transport Canada in 2012 to operate its trains in Canada with one engineer. The reason given by Transport Canada was that the company uses state-of-the-art technology which allows it to conduct the engines from a distance. Only two railway companies have been granted such an exemption. Daniel Roy, Director of United Steelworkers District 5 (Quebec) explained in an interview with La Presse that personnel reduction on the trains was the subject of disagreement between MMA and the union during the last round of collective bargaining and that finally the federal authorities approved MMA's request. But according to Transport Canada, the government based its decision on a study carried out by MMA itself. "The railroad companies must demonstrate to Transport Canada that they will be in compliance with the present regulations," explains the person responsible for railway security at Transport Canada, Luc Bourdon. "In the case of MMA, the company did in fact supply the analysis that allowed us to establish that they were in compliance." Daniel Roy points out, "If there are two people, when the train is stopped, one person can go rest while the other stays onboard. [...] Beyond any doubt, if another person had been on board who knew the system, who would have been on shift, none of this would have happened." According to a former MMA employee who was interviewed by Radio-Canada, the tests to check if a train is completely motionless require two people -- one who activates the motor to "stretch" the train and another who looks at how each of the cars holds up. If at the first movement of the engine the cars touch one another, then the brakes are not working.

- The MMA train was carrying crude oil to the Irving Oil refinery in Saint John, New Brunswick. The Irving refinery is the largest in Canada, producing more than 300,000 barrels (48,000 cubic metres) of oil products per day. The crude oil came from the Bakken oil fields of North Dakota, where it is extracted by a method called "fracking." This involves injecting a mixture of water and toxic chemicals at high pressure deep into the ground to release the oil from shale rock, polluting the air, water and surrounding communities.

- Transportation of hazardous cargo through populated areas is on the increase, including crude oil and diesel. In Canada, there has been a 25-fold increase in the transport of oil products by train since 2008. Existing pipelines are saturated because of a rapid increase in oil production in recent years due in part to fracking in North Dakota. The railways have become the default solution to transport the oil.

- A Scotia Bank report on train cargo says some 300,000 barrels of oil per day are transported by train throughout North America. A CIBC report indicates that CN is looking at the prospects of profiting from the increased need for the transport of oil without making the necessary improvements to its equipment beforehand. It seeks to double its transport of crude oil and coal in the coming years.

- On June 11, MMA was responsible for spilling 13,000 litres of diesel into the environment as a result of the derailment of one of its trains in Frontenac, a few kilometres away from Lac-Mégantic.

- In May 2012, a 64-car CP train derailed near Saskatoon, pouring 575 barrels of crude oil into the environment. It was the third such spill in one month in that province.

Rail blockade in Fairfield, Maine, June 29, 2013, against the transport of crude oil through populated regions.

- Protests in the U.S. against the transport of hazardous material through populated areas have included a campaign of rail blockades. On June 29, the environmental organization 350 Maine organized the blockade of a Pan Am train passing through the town of Fairfield, Maine, with roughly 70,000 barrels of crude oil headed for the Irving Refinery in Saint John.

- The train and rail line involved in the Lac-Mégantic disaster are owned by MMA, which is based in Hermon, Maine, which is in turn owned by Rail World Inc. MMA runs an 820 kilometre railway that crosses Quebec, Vermont and Maine. The company has 170 employees and a fleet of 26 engines.

- Rail World Inc., which created MMA in 2002, is "a railway management, consulting and investment corporation specializing in privatizations and restructurings" in the United States, Canada, Estonia and Poland. Its purpose is "to promote rail industry privatization by bringing together government bodies wishing to sell their stakes with investment capital and management skills."

- In Canada, grandfathered clauses within federal regulations allow companies to use old trains that are not on par with today's standards, according to Stephen Guilbeault of the environmental group Equiterre. "There has been a wave of deregulation in that sector, as in many others, and the federal government has been very complicit in letting companies dictate the rules of the game," Guilbeault said.

(Sources: Sûreté du Québec, City of Lac-Mégantic, Urgence Québec, Rail World Inc, Maine 350, Equiterre. Photos: F. Malo, Support Lac-Mégantic, 350 Maine)

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The Issue of the Air Brakes and Rail Safety

The Transportation Safety Board of Canada (TSB) is carrying out an investigation into the cause of the tragedy in Lac-Mégantic. Meanwhile, executives from Montreal, Maine & Atlantic Railway (MMA) have said they believe the train's air brakes failed while it was parked in the neighbouring town of Nantes after firemen shut down the engine to put out a fire that erupted on Friday night. TML spoke with Brian Stevens, national representative of the Canadian Auto Workers (CAW) with 35 years of experience in train inspections, to shed light on the role played by air brakes on freight trains and the regulations that govern their use.

TML: In the train derailment, explosions and fires that happened in Lac-Mégantic, an issue has been raised of the air brakes. They have been identified as a factor in the train starting to move on its own, downhill from Nantes to Lac-Mégantic. Can you explain what could have happened?

Brian Stevens: What it sounds like, and this is not unusual in this day and age, is that typically when they park a train, typically what they have been doing is they just set the brakes on the locomotive and don't set the air brakes up on the cars. Then they do what they call the hand brakes, which are big mechanical brakes. It sounds to me that the practice at the MMA is that they put what they call the independent brake on the locomotive and then do the hand brakes on 10 cars.

It seems to me that it is reasonable that when the fire department showed up to put out the fire, they probably pressed the button right on the side of the locomotive, this big red button that says Emergency Shut Off. I suspect that when the firemen showed up they pushed the button, just to shut off the fuel so it would not continue to feed the fire. The engine would shut down in a few minutes or even a few seconds.

What I suspect happened, and the Transportation Safety Board is going to do its investigation; likely what happened is once the engine shut down and the air compressor shut down, there was no air feeding continuously into the brakes. It sounds like the air brakes leaked off.

At some point, something caused the train to start moving. It could have been the force of the train itself, if it was on a slope. I don't know if it was windy that day. It could be anything. A train is designed not to run on its own, and that is why this is just so bizarre and it is tragic really. The hand brakes are not designed to really stop the train. They are just designed to hold it. A hand brake is not for 72 cars; it is just for that one car that it is designed to hold.

Historically what used to happen is that the train would come to a rail yard or it would stop at a siding and they would put the air brakes on all 72 cars. They would do what they call an emergency application. It did not mean that there was an emergency. It is the application that puts full brake pressure. The only way then that the brakes can come off is when the engine is running, and the air compressor is running, and they can do what we call pumping up the train. It pushes air through the train to help it take the brakes off. But that is not what the industry is doing now. There is a change in the practices. They only put the brakes on the engine and rely on the hand brakes. That is probably a contributing factor. If the air brakes had been on all 72 cars, the likelihood is that the train may not have moved even if the engine was shut off. If the brakes are on all 72 cars, unless somebody comes along and releases those brakes in one way or another the train is not going to move.

They used to do that but in the railway industry there is a desire to speed up the trains, what they call the velocity of the cars, getting trains moving again. On a 72 car train, it might take 5-10 minutes to release the air brakes. So the new crew comes on at 7:00 am; they would have to release the brakes, which means that the air compressor would have to pump air in all those chambers to release the brakes of the train. It might have taken 5-10 minutes to do that. But the industry sees that as money lost. According to them, this is 10 minutes during which that train could have been moving instead of being stopped. That regrettably happens at all of the major railways.

At all the railways across the country, there is this desire to increase what they call train velocity as part of their operating ratio to satisfy their shareholders. They want to keep the trains moving and get them back moving again as quickly as they can if they stop. If it takes 10 minutes to release the brakes, that is 10 minutes that the train should be running instead of just sitting there. It sounds that the air brakes were not on those 72 cars. And that is not simply MMA. CN, CP, everybody does that.

The fire department, and again the TSB will do their investigation. The fire department did not do anything unusual; they shut off the fuel line and put the fire out. I heard that the fire chief said that there was a broken fuel line. These [engines] are mostly metal and the only thing that is going to burn on them is the fuel. The fire chief said that they had to shut the engine off because there was a fuel leak.

TML: There is also a lot of talk about the role of Transport Canada in railway safety and problems in the work of Transport Canada. What is the issue according to you?

BS: Once again, TSB will explain what caused all this. But part of the problem is that while institutionally we have a very good robust Railway Safety Act, we have a good regulatory framework; but what we have is that the railway industry itself, they police themselves.

Transport Canada has a role to play and I think that it has a larger role to play. They need to have more inspectors out in the field; they need to be stopping trains in the middle of their run and make an inspection from one end to the other. The railway inspectors, and in CAW we have workers whose job is to inspect the train, should have sufficient time without pressure to get the cars back moving again.

But again, this is a runaway train and that is something that is not supposed to happen. Technology can also play a role. If we had what they call Positive Train Control, the PTC, like they have in some railways in the U.S. and in other countries, when that train started moving unattended, it would have sent a signal to somebody and they could have remotely stopped that train. The railway industry in Canada has been pushing back saying it is too costly to implement PTC. They say that the American experience is a hit and miss, sometimes it works, sometimes it does not, but the status quo, which is to do nothing, is dangerous as we see in that situation here. Other countries are implementing PTC, but in Canada the railway industry does not see shareholders' value in this.

In the regulatory framework, there is something called Safety Management System (SMS). The SMS really says that the railway industry is going to tell the regulators what to do. And they have a very strong lobby group called the Railway Association of Canada, and this association lobbies and petitions Transport Canada. It will tell Transport Canada that even though a rule says such and such, this rule does not really apply to them. They will say that this rule is there for safety purposes, but they do not see that it is going to harm public perception or safety if they are exempted.

According to the industry, safety is to make sure that the rail car mechanic is wearing his hard hat, that the diesel mechanic is wearing safety boots, that the track inspectors wear safety glasses. What we should be looking at is what are the safety appliances on these cars, if they need to be repaired let's repair them at the nearest point. Give the mechanics enough time to inspect the train.

Transport Canada inspectors do go out in the field but not in the same way that we see in Ontario or Quebec where [highway] inspectors will do safety blitzes. They will pull over tractor trailers and other vehicles to make sure that they are all safe. They don't do a similar thing in the railway industry.

At Transport Canada, they like to say that they have the same amount of inspectors that they had five years ago. That is probably very good but their role is different; they are not in the field the same way as they used to be. They should be out in the field supporting those individuals who do an inspection on the train. Those workers should be allowed to make sure that the trains are inspected, as they should be. They should be given enough time to do the inspection and if there are any defects, they should be properly repaired before the train gets on its way. The Safety Management System on paper works great but nobody interjects themselves.

Transport Canada is just a kind of overseer. The railways take care of their own audits, and then they just report the findings of their audits to Transport Canada. Every once in a while, Transport Canada likes to report and say that safety audits are fine.

We have to look into the construction of the cars. It sounds to me that the cars that were not constructed the same way as propane cars are constructed. The railway [car] that crashed in Lac-Mégantic tomorrow could carry water, canola oil; it is made for general use. We should be looking into the construction of the cars, since the transportation of crude oil by train is on the increase. Crude oil should be carried in cars that are double-hulled, very similar to ocean going vessels, so that if there is a catastrophic event like a rail derailment there is no leakage of the fuel.

TML: What would you like to say in conclusion?

BS: The regulatory regime that we have in Canada is robust; it needs resources and the railways should not be allowed to exempt themselves from the rules. That is something that they are doing all the time. Only this year I think I have seen eight or nine exemption requests to Transport Canada and there are more and more. The regulatory regime is very good but the railways constantly lobby and petition Transport Canada. They argue that such and such a rule should not apply to them because they had only one incident in one hundred years. But as you see in Lac-Mégantic, maybe we have had only one incident of this type in a hundred years, and yet, a whole community is devastated. They will never be able to forget this tragedy even in a hundred years from now.

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The Irving Oil Connection

The criminal disaster inflicted by the greed of the oil and railway monopolies last week on the people of Lac-Mégantic was the product of many hands. The media reportage initially focussed blame for the so-called runaway train on a single allegedly lax train engineer employed by U.S.-based rail company Montreal, Maine & Atlantic (MMA). There is, meanwhile, no shortage of Canadian corporate moguls whose hands are steeped in the blood of the people of Lac-Mégantic. The Irving family of New Brunswick, owners of the refinery at Saint John to which that runaway cargo was destined, is typically notorious.

Protestor holds up sign during the belated visit to Lac-Mégantic of the President of Montreal, Maine & Atlantic Railway, Ed Burkhardt, July 10, 2013.

Continuous shipment by rail of crude oil pumped to the surface in the Bakken fields of northern North Dakota to the 350,000 barrel-per-day refining facility at Saint John officially began about a year ago -- May 2012. The average trainload is more than 100 cars, although many shipments are longer. The route has been in continuous service, operating day and night non-stop, since that time.

The rail line routing itself is instructive. Existing railways are used, completely bypassing any need to resort to new pipeline construction which would require public legal proceedings to approve new rights-of-way. These rail lines pass through dozens of former industrial towns -- now dead or dying -- stretching west to east more than 3,200 kilometres from Chicago to Rotterdam Junction in upper New York State. That is where it connects with the MMA-owned lines that have been in the news since the Lac-Mégantic disaster. The easternmost extension of the MMA-owned lines in northern and central Maine terminate at Brownville Junction, Maine.

There has been no investment to upgrade any of the rail lines involved to meet the standards necessary to ensure the safest possible transit of such loads of a cargo so obviously rich in potential to seriously pollute groundwater and surface streams in the event of an accident. On the contrary, the rail companies themselves, starting with the giant BNSF (owned by the American plutocrat Warren Buffett) which controls the traffic into Chicago, have milked billions in "incentives" from the state governments along these routes to "help the industrial regeneration of depressed areas" and ensure maximum profits no matter how much has to be spent on short-term maintenance and railbed reconstruction over railways that had long since fallen into general disuse.

Eventually coming eastward from upper New York State to the last leg through central Maine and southwestern New Brunswick, the parlous state of these rail lines worsens sharply. The railbeds of this portion of the route are some of the oldest still in use in North America, originally constructed in the 1890s. The last portion of this route runs from Brownsville, Maine to the Irving refinery at tidewater in Saint John. The largest portion of these lines is owned and maintained by the Irvings' New Brunswick Southern Railway (NBSR) subsidiary. NBSR's holdings are comprised mostly of Canadian Pacific Railway (CPR) track that fell into disuse after the CPR eliminated daily passenger service between Saint John and Montreal in the early 1980s. Conducting the same kind of bribery of public officials for which BNSF is notorious in state capitols across the northern tier of U.S. Midwestern states, the Irvings certainly cannot be accused of narrow nationalism. They loot the state treasury in Augusta, Maine just as thoroughly as they loot the federal government in Ottawa and the provincial government in Fredericton.

The capacity and efficiencies of the Canaport dedicated oil cargo handling facility at tidewater in Saint John are for the time being higher than anything their nearest competition on the U.S. Eastern Seaboard -- at Searsport, Main or Everett, Massachusetts -- have been able to offer the moguls of Big Oil and Big Rail. Canaport was originally built about 40 years ago by the Irvings exclusively for their refinery. It has a dedicated state-of-the-art two-kilometre-long rail connection to the refinery, and has been massively and regularly upgraded thanks to the generosity of Canadian taxpayers.

All this is part and parcel of the economic "renewal" of the Harper dictatorship, much-ballyhooed in those Action Plan ads still appearing on Canadian television. The logic of Harper's "renewal" dictates that the people of Lac-Mégantic must die so that the second-wealthiest family in Canada (the Thomsons are first) may continue to live in the manner to which they have become accustomed.

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Criminal Neglect Against Railworkers and
People in Lac-Mégantic

As a qualified yet blacklisted CNR Canadian yard-foreman/conductor, it is outrageous indeed what the management of the railway has done to the community of Lac-Mégantic, Quebec. The former CNR taught that safety is the first rule and consideration of the railway. This so-called accident proves the point the Canadian Railway Unions have been making all along. Safety has gone out the window with the austerity implemented since the sixties.

Five people per freight crew is the minimum crew size required to cover the safety codes. That is because a train has two sides to it, and a front and a back, which must be covered by four rail workers: two in a caboose in the back of the train, and two, an engineer and a second engineer in the front to look after the movement of the train. In addition, there must be a switchman in the head end of the engine to look after switches should the Centralized Traffic Control fail. That is fundamental to the movement and safety of trains.

The feet on the ground cannot be replaced by robo-machines operated from long external distances, as machines run by an external power source sometimes fail and, quite frequently, cause accidents and damage to the communities that are within the scope of the railway.

Especially after the U.S. imperialist takeover of the Canadian railways, companies have been using austerity programs to implement automation to replace the social responsibility and consciousness that a properly comprised crew contributes to railway safety. It is entirely reckless behaviour on the part of the management on Canadian railways to implement the new rules of the foreign owners of the CNR, BCR, CPR and others. More than 140,000 railworkers lost their jobs, many blacklisted for fighting back.

The austerity programs of the railways do not work for the safety of the organized working classes or the communities they live in. The present situation is unsustainable and shows the reckless abandonment of governments at all levels who permit the monopoly capitalist owners to risk the lives and property of the Canadian and Quebec people.

Let me illustrate the failure to respect union and company safety laws here. Each train initiates in a rail yard. During the sixties, there were thousands of car knockers, a special safety feature. This was a group of men (in those days women were not allowed to work in the running trades) who would tie the train together dutifully, knocking at each wheel with steel hammers to check the brakes and condition of the steel wheels etc., while also tying together the air hoses connecting the train's air brakes.

The car knockers had the power to spot good and bad per car, checking the manual braking systems as well as the engine-controlled air brakes that are applied the full length of the train. Bad brakes or other failures on a wagon or boxcar were either fixed or the railcar was removed from the train and replaced with one that worked fully, safety-wise.

The jobs of those car knockers are all finished. There is literally no one checking the mechanical safety of each and every constituent part of the train anymore, as car knockers did. Does that sound like progress? No, because it was not replaced with better mechanisms of control.

Clearly, in Lac-Mégantic, the cars on the tracks left at the top of a hill did not have the necessary brakes applied so the train could be safely secured. It cannot roll down a hill if the brakes are applied and working properly. Attempts to blame firemen or others who are not experienced in securing a train is irresponsible.

The necessity to apply proper regulations on Canada's railways has gone out the window with the U.S. imperialist purchase of Canada's railways. Neglect and disallowing of the naturally evolved railway rules, while maximizing private profits for the paper shuffling stockholders, is the only consideration in the rail industry.

Governments facilitating this destruction must be held to account!

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Never Again Lac-Mégantic!

"With all our hearts, we are with you"

It is with profound sadness and anger that the Quebec working class has learned of the terrible tragedy that has struck Lac-Mégantic. Although investigations involving the transportation, police and fire departments and other civil services to determine the causes of the tragedy have just begun, the working class instinctively knows what are the real causes. The concerted anti-social offensive that the biggest monopolies, the financial oligarchy and their political representatives are forcing upon society can only lead to a permanent state of crime and anarchy. The working class is well aware that the railways, just like all sectors of transportation, whether air, sea or land, have been subjected to this offensive and to the destructive logic of the monopolies who control them. Railway workers at the two biggest railway monopolies in Canada have fought to defend their rights and those of the people by demanding that the most modern standards be upheld in this dangerous industry.

The Harper government, anxious to meet the demands of the financial oligarchy, has imposed working conditions by means of back-to-work legislation, blocking the workers' capacity to decide the safety of their working conditions. But this is only one aspect of the overall situation. The monopolies' neo-liberal offensive has led to the overall deregulation of the railway sector throughout the world and Rail World Inc. has made the most of it. Privatization, the flourishing of "low cost" railway companies, the speculative frenzy on oil production, the anarchic development of this production, lack of adequate material and cars, reduction of safety standards and procedures, lack of personnel training, anti-worker restructuring, the elimination of mandatory operational procedures for transport companies, to name just a few, reveal the total lack of responsibility on the part of these monopolies and their governments.

The tragedy of Lac-Mégantic is the direct consequence of this lack of responsibility and of the anti-social offensive against modern society. The working class must define its own path and never accept this state of anarchy. It must defend society against those who shun responsibility and who are in positions of authority today. The tragedy of Lac-Mégantic is now a painful part of our history and must remind us of our duty to take up this responsibility.

Never again Lac-Mégantic!

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