October 25, 2021 - No. 99
Lawsuit Against Canadian Pacific in Lac-Mégantic Tragedy
Residents and Activists Demand Answers and Rail Safety Protection
Demonstration demands rail safety measures in Lac-Mégantic, July 10, 2016, three years after the rail disaster.
Justice for BC Hospitality Workers
• Hilton Metrotown Workers' Militant Picket Demands Justice
- Anne Jamieson
• Financial Corruption of the Owners of the Hilton Metrotown
Lawsuit Against Canadian Pacific in Lac-Mégantic Tragedy
A civil trial began
in Sherbrooke, Quebec on September 21 against Canadian Pacific Railway
(CP) in connection with the July 6, 2013 Lac-Mégantic train
tragedy. On that terrible night, a train carrying highly flammable oil
-- falsely labeled as lightly flammable -- derailed, caught fire and
exploded in downtown Lac-Mégantic, causing the death of 47
people, serious injuries to numerous others and severe post-traumatic
stress for the population, as well as very extensive property damage.
The purpose of the trial is to determine CP's responsibility in the
tragedy. CP, along with World Fuel, the broker that purchased the shale oil from
North Dakota companies, and the Irving refinery in New Brunswick that
was to receive the oil, were the three main actors in the transaction
and the cargo's transportation. The Canadian government was also a
key player, because of the deregulation it granted to the rail
lawsuit alleges that CP knowingly contracted out the transportation of
the rail cars for the last leg of the journey to an American company,
Montreal, Maine & Atlantic Canada (MMA), in order to save money.
MMA was notorious for the dilapidated state of its tracks,
which were completely unsuitable for the transportation of such
material, as well as for its appalling performance from a health and
safety perspective. Through a backroom deal with Transport Canada, MMA
was even allowed to operate its trains with only one employee on board.
CP claims that its liability with regard to transportation ended once
the train left its tracks.
The litigation was instigated
through a class action lawsuit on behalf of the victims of the tragedy,
by the Quebec government and by insurers. In 2016, as part of the MMA
bankruptcy proceedings, the court incorporated the victims' class
action lawsuit which resulted in over 20 companies paying out
portion of which went to the victims in exchange for a guarantee that
no subsequent legal action would be taken against them. CP, denying any
responsibility in the tragedy, refused to participate in the agreement
and to pecuniary compensation. The trial is expected to last
approximately seven months.
The Coalition of Citizens and Organizations Committed to Railway
Safety in Lac-Mégantic, which has fought tirelessly since the
tragedy to ensure the public's safety as well as for rail safety for all
communities in Canada, is monitoring the developments in the trial very
"The trial is of great interest to us because we hope to learn the
truth about the responsibility of the various actors in this tragedy,"
Robert Bellefleur, the Coalition's spokesperson, told Workers' Forum.
"In fact, the Canadian government has, and continues to refuse to hold a
public commission of inquiry to get to the bottom of this
In its June submission to the hearings on rail safety of the House of Commons' Standing Committee
on Transport, Infrastructure and Communities the Coalition reiterated its call for an independent public inquiry
into the Lac-Mégantic catastrophe.
The Coalition stated that the inquiry's mandate "would be to shed light on the
causes and actors of this tragedy and to make the necessary
recommendations to prevent such a catastrophe from ever happening again
In a discussion with Workers' Forum, Bellefleur also
reiterated the Coalition's demand, on behalf of the residents of
Lac-Mégantic, that the resumption of oil transportation in the
region not be allowed, either on the current rail line or on the bypass
route that the federal government has committed to building since the tragedy.
"Since the tragedy, trains loaded with propane gas, sulphuric acid,
and other hazardous materials continue to circulate on the same rails,
on the same slope and at an eight-degree curve at the very bottom, right
in the heart of downtown Lac-Mégantic. In addition, it has not
been ruled out that oil may again start to flow through
Lac-Mégantic. And the trains are getting longer and heavier.
Especially with the current increase in the price of oil, the transport
of oil by train becomes more profitable. Rail transportation is more
expensive than by pipeline, but with the price of oil going up, there's
more room for rail. We're calling for a permanent moratorium on oil
transportation through Lac-Mégantic, including through the
bypass route," Bellefleur said.
With regard to the bypass, the situation has become even more
uncertain since CP purchased the now-defunct MMA rail network in 2019
from the New York-based company that took over MMA's assets following
its bankruptcy. This puts CP in a position to be able to impose
changes to the original route and design of the infrastructure
for this track, which it is to assume ownership of following
construction. This could result in cost overruns and new delays, and
the terms of the agreement between Transport Canada and CP are shrouded
Lac Megantic, July 10, 2016.
Shortly before the recent federal election, Robert Bellefleur told the local press:
"I want to remind current Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and his
ministers that the bypass project was originally intended primarily to
ensure the recovery and safety of the population of the
Lac-Mégantic region. This infrastructure project was intended to
promote the social healing of a community shattered by the neglect of
governments and not to gratuitously satisfy the operational needs of a
wealthy railway company like CP. Currently, we have no information on
the timeline for the completion of the bypass. There's talk about it
being completed in 2023, but the land has yet to be acquired and the
plans and specifications have not even been drawn up. What we
want is transparency."
As they have done since the beginning, Lac-Mégantic residents
and activists are calling for the protection of rail safety for the
town and region and for all communities in Canada. In particular, they
are calling for an end to self-regulation of the rail industry. They
are calling upon Transport Canada to play its independent role as the
guardian of rail safety for everyone living along rail tracks by
exercising control over railway regulations and operations.
Workers' Forum once again expresses its utmost respect for the Lac-Mégantic community and the activists defending rail safety.
Justice for BC Hospitality Workers
Members of Unite Here! Local 40 organized a lively picket in front of
the downtown headquarters of the Canadian Western Bank (CWB) on October
20. This bank has lent money to DSDL, the offshore corporation that
owns the Hilton Metrotown hotel in Burnaby where workers have been
locked out since April 15. The workers have been
locked out since they organized a one day strike to demand the
reinstatement of 97 workers who had been laid off, then terminated,
during the pandemic. The response of the hotel was the lockout which
has now continued for over six months.
the start of the pandemic negotiations were underway between DSDL and
Unite Here! Local 40 for the renewal of the collective agreement. To
date DSDL has rebuffed all attempts by the union to conclude contract
negotiations and to extend recall rights for workers laid off due to
Members of Local 40 assembled at the Burrard Skytrain Station at
3:00 pm, before marching across the street and taking position on one
side of the CWB building. Union leaflets explaining their position and
copies of Workers' Forum articles reporting on the hotel
workers' actions were distributed. Drummers provided the beat, as
some members banged on pots, while about 75 people walked, danced and
marched up and down the sidewalk, wearing red signs saying Locked Out,
and chanting slogans like No Justice, No Peace! Two members of the
union carried a large banner saying Justice for Hotel Workers! and a
large sign Our Security Lies in Our Fight for the Rights of All! drew many positive comments.
Besides hotel workers there were members of other unions including
the BC General Employees' Union and the Hospital Employees' Union.
There was a contingent of workers on strike at Ledcor and other members
of the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers. Vancouver City
councillor Jean Swanson and other supporters also joined
DSDL's Ongoing Refusal to Negotiate
In September the union and Hospitality Industrial Relations reached
agreement on a new collective agreement and recall rights extended to
the end of the pandemic for over a thousand workers in hotels
throughout BC. Hilton Metrotown is one of 10 hotels in the province
where no contract settlement or agreement on recall rights has yet been
As part of its work to inform the public about their struggle
and the criminal activities of DSDL, the union organized a picket at
the office of the Canadian Western Bank (CWB) in Vancouver, calling on
the bank not to do business with DSDL.
Malone, a representative of Unite Here! said "the bargaining team is
heading into negotiations, and hopes to have results by the weekend. We
have sent letters and made many calls to the DSDL asking them politely
to end the lockout and rehire the 97 workers, but they have refused to
respond." By exposing the criminal past of their
employer, he said, and urging the CWB not to do business with this
corporation, the union and its members are hitting them in the only
place that matters to them. He pointed out that it is a situation of "a
rich corporation (the bank) giving money to another rich corporation at
the expense of the hotel workers, and it is unacceptable."
He pointed out that much of the money that the CWB is lending to
DSDL and other such companies comes from pension funds of unions. This
will be an avenue that the union will follow up on, he said, to stop
pension funds of union members being invested in such corporations. "We
will be back" he said, and "we will have pickets at all the
branches of CWB until they agree to drop DSDL." The crowd chanted "We
will be back. We will be back!" for several minutes.
A New Direction for the Economy is Needed
their struggle the workers at the Hilton Metrotown are standing up to
not just one corporation but the international financial oligarchy of
which DSDL is a part. The international financial oligarchy operates on
the basis of paying the rich and on fraud, all at the expense of the
working people. The struggle of the Hilton Hotel workers
makes this clear for all to see, as do similar struggles of public
sector and industrial workers. It is not just one company or
corporation that is bad or shady, because they are all interconnected
and based on maximum profit at any cost.
Workers Forum wishes the members of Unite Here! success
in their upcoming negotiations with DSDL to end the lockout and rehire
the 97 terminated workers, and to safeguard decent wages and working
conditions for their members. It is evident that the direction of
the economy (and those directing it) need to change so that the
economy benefits the society and people, and not the insatiable demands
of corporate owners. The hotel workers are not backing down and in
defending their rights they are defending the rights of all working
In a July 14 press release Unite Here! Local 40 states:
"DSDL is owned by members of the prominent and politically connected
Cho family that founded South Korean conglomerate Hyosung Corporation,
the world's largest producer of spandex. DSDL's Chairman, Cho Wuk-rai,
was indicted for embezzling company funds from a Hyosung subsidiary and
later sentenced to prison. He received a
pardon the next year.
"DSDL's Chairman was convicted and sentenced to prison again in 2009
for setting up illegal loans between businesses he controlled which
eventually led to the bankruptcy of two publicly traded companies. Mr.
Cho received a special pardon by South Korea President Lee Myung-bak,
to whom Cho is related through marriage. In 2010, the
year after Mr. Cho received his second conviction, DSDL bought Hilton
"Hilton Metrotown locked-out staff three months ago. The BC
Federation of Labour issued a boycott against the hotel which is losing
millions of dollars worth of current and future business as travel
restrictions ease. DSDL's hotels in Edmonton are also at risk of a
boycott. DSDL's failure to address the financial impact of the lockout
be cause for concern, particularly in light of the firm's corporate
In reference to a July 7 letter sent to CWB by the union, the press
release states, "The letter asks whether CWB was aware of these
convictions or if DSDL ever disclosed this material information to the
bank. If CWB was informed, the union questions why the bank approved
the loan and whether they extended loans to DSDL's other Canadian
businesses, including three Edmonton hotels acquired in 2017 and
another in Quebec City acquired in 2019. [...] UNITE HERE is calling on
CWB to undertake a proper due diligence review of DSDL and to
re-evaluate whether lending to DSDL is worth the risk."
(To access articles individually click on the black headline.)
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