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CP, union spar over handling of accident investigation


An investigative documentary report by CBC into the February 2019 derailment of a Canadian Pacific train that resulted in the death of three crew members has the railway and its union trading barbs over how the accident investigation is being handled.

On February 4, 2019, a two-kilometre grain train ran away downhill near Field, BC, eventually falling more than 60 metres from a bridge, after its air brake system failed, killing Dylan Paradis, Andrew Dockrell and Daniel Waldenberger-Bulmer.

Shortly after the accident, Transport Canada ordered all railway companies to use hand brakes if a train has used its emergency brakes to stop it from descending or ascending a mountain grade.

The Fifth Estate episode sought to address allegations by a former CP employee who said the company thwarted his efforts to fully investigate the accident. The former employee was part of CP’s police service, which is a fully authorized federal force but under the direction of CP. The former employee now works for the Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP).

In response to the allegations, the union that represents CP train crews is calling for an independent RCMP investigation into the deadly rail disaster.

“Given the controversy surrounding the criminal investigation into this tragedy, it’s obvious that we must involve the RCMP. Every effort must be made to uncover the root causes and to ensure this never happens again,” said the president of the Teamsters Canada Rail Conference (TCRC), Lyndon Isaak.

In a statement, Canadian Pacific called the program “both false and misleading.”

“The way the stories are framed is both disgraceful and sensational,” said Keith Creel, CP’s President and CEO. “The RCMP can investigate whatever it sees fit in Canada, and they have been involved from the very beginning. As I said to CBC previously, we are open and willing to discuss anything with the RCMP, the TSB and all other agencies involved. We have been cooperating fully and will continue to do so.

“To be clear, the RCMP was immediately on-site post incident and the RCMP always has the legal authority and jurisdiction to investigate as it sees fit,” Creel said.

In its statement, CP stated it “has cooperated and continues to cooperate fully with all investigations and inquiries from regulatory and law enforcement agencies. Despite assertions from the CBC that investigations have concluded, they remain active, particularly by the TSB and Employment and Social Development Canada. These investigations are independent, complex and in-depth, and as such, take time.”

The union also reiterated its call for the federal government to abolish corporate police forces.

“Corporate police forces have no place in the modern world. It is absurd that a company should be able to criminally investigate itself,” said president of Teamsters Canada, François Laporte. “They’ll never find themselves guilty of anything. We once again call on the government of Canada to abolish all forms of private policing.”