Crown won’t appeal acquittals in Lac-Mégantic train disaster case!

Tom Harding, Richard Labrie, Jean Demaître cleared of criminal negligence causing 47 deaths

CBC News Posted: Feb 16, 2018 3:35 PM ET Last Updated: Feb 16, 2018 4:49 PM ET

Train engineer Thomas Harding was unable to speak to reporters  after hearing the verdict in Sherbrooke, Que., on Jan. 19, 2018.

Train engineer Thomas Harding was unable to speak to reporters after hearing the verdict in Sherbrooke, Que., on Jan. 19, 2018. (Ryan Remiorz/Canadian Press)

Quebec’s Director of Criminal and Penal Prosecutions (DPCP) will not appeal the not-guilty verdicts reached by the jury in the trial of three former Montreal, Maine and Atlantic rail workers for their role in the 2013 derailment and explosions in Lac-Mégantic, Que.

The DPCP announced its decision in a statement on Friday, saying it had carefully reviewed the questions of law pertaining to the case.

“The prosecutors concluded that in the best interest of the public, the case would not be appealed,” said DPCP spokesperson Jean Pascal Boucher.

Boucher said prosecutors had presented all the admissible documents in court and had called on more than thirty witnesses.

On Jan. 19, after a four-month trial and nine days of deliberations, jurors acquitted the three former Montreal, Maine and Atlantic (MMA) railway employees charged with criminal negligence causing 47 deaths.

Locomotive engineer Tom Harding, 56, rail traffic controller Richard Labrie, 59, and operations manager Jean Demaître, 53, were indicted for their roles in the derailment of a runaway fuel train early on July 6, 2013.

Several tankers carrying highly volatile crude oil exploded, turning downtown Lac-Mégantic into an inferno and killing 47 people.​

Class-action suit still looming

Harding’s defence lawyer, Charles Shearson, says he spoke with his client on Friday after the Crown released its statement.

“He is relieved to be able to put, at least the whole criminal process, behind him and to be able to move forward,” said Shearson.

Tom Harding 1

Tom Harding, left, with his legal team, Charles Shearson and Tom Walsh, at the Sherbrooke courthouse during the trial. (Alison Brunette/CBC)

He said an appeal would have been surprising given the trial was before a jury.

“There would have had to be an error in the directives or in a preliminary decision by his honourable Justice Dumas,” he said.

Tom Harding is still a defendant in a class-action lawsuit filed against his former employer, MMA, which has since gone bankrupt, as well as Canadian Pacific.

Shearson says since it is a civil suit, it would not carry any criminal charges. No date has been set.

Drop ALL the Charges NOW! Rail Safety Requires No Scapegoating.

On Feb 5, 2018, Canadian railroaders Tom Harding and Richard Labrie are ordered back to court to face addition federal charges, even after being acquitted in a 3 month frame up trial related to the Lac-Mégantic oil train wreck of 2013.


Set up to fail!  Every danger was put in place by out-of-control railroad managers and policy makers, while the government looked away. None of those dangers was created on July 6, 2013. They were all in place long before that and part of a system and a culture of recklessness.  But no owners or top manager decision makers are ever going to face trial.  They are actually free and running trains around the world right this minute.


The continued targeting of Harding and Labrie is part of the ongoing attempt by the Canadian government to save face and divert attention away from worldwide calls for a real investigation of who set up the dangerous factors that killed 47 and destroyed the downtown.

The charges now being prosecuted under the Railway Safety Act and the Fisheries Act are part of an ominous recent move to criminalize workplace rules which has been a long time goal of employers who wish to shift all liability onto their work forces.  They also represent a significant abuse of power by the government in this case, since a jury has already acquitted the two.

The essence of why real rail safety requires that the Canadian government must drop ALL the Charges NOW.

Urgent: Action for Rail Safety is needed

This is no way to get rail safety

February 5, 2018, acquitted Lac-Mégantic rail workers Tom Harding and Richard Labrie must return to the Québec courthouse to face additional charges from the Canadian Ministry of Justice.  Despite being acquitted of all criminal charges after a 3 month trail on January 19th, they continue to face the possibility of jail time and fines connected with the campaign by the government to hold them responsible, while giving a free pass to the US based owners and top managers of the Montreal Maine and Atlantic Railroad.

The trial and previous investigations have made clear that all the critical factors causing the wreck were in place long before Harding and Labrie went to work on July 5, 2013.


It’s Time To Drop ALL Charges Against Harding and Labrie

What even the Federal Crown prosecutors privately admit. The wreck was inevitable and it wasn’t because of handbrakes.

They had a criminal trial instead of a real commission of inquiry.  That’s no way to find out the truth about the causes of the wreck.

Time to drop ALL charges against Harding and Labrie and get serious about the dangerous practices.

Statement of the Harding Labrie Defense Committee on the Verdict


Press Release

Acquittal of Rail Workers in Lac-Mégantic Trial “one step towards real rail safety.”

Washington DC, January 19, 2018:

The attempt to blame railroad workers Tom Harding and Richard Labrie for the tragic 2013 Lac-Mégantic Québec wreck that took 47 lives ended today after 9 days of deliberations with “not guilty” verdicts on the charge of Criminal Negligence Resulting in Death and other lesser charges. Supervisor Jean DeMaître was also acquitted.

“This is the right verdict, but it does not close the case. It is just one step towards real rail safety,” said veteran train engineer and wreck investigator Fritz Edler, speaking for the Harding-Labrie Defense Committee, which helped coordinate support for the rail workers throughout North America. “We have been waiting over three years for an official government inquiry into the causes of this tragedy and for steps to make sure it doesn’t happen again.”

Rail safety and environmental activists in Canada and the United States have been arguing for years that holding a criminal trial of rail workers before examining all the factors that led to the crash amounts to a cover-up. “A criminal trial is the absolute worst way to uncover all the actions and policies that contributed to this crash,” said Edler. “The report from the Canadian Transport Safety Board had 18 factors, and Harding and Labrie had no part in at least 16 of them. They must be addressed.”

Rail workers are not the only ones supporting the verdict. Jean Clusiault of Lac-Mégantic, who lost a daughter in the tragedy, told CBC News , “I felt relieved because these are not the right people who should be there,” he said. “These aren’t killers. We treated them like killers.”

“A focus on rail safety might have prevented some of the runaway trains over the past three years while Harding and Labrie were facing these charges,” said Edler. “This should have been the first priority in 2013. Many of the same risky railroad policies that led up to Lac-Mégantic are still in effect today. There is still not enough government oversight of rail safety.”

The Harding and Labrie Defense Committee had two demands right from the start. Drop the Charges, and, Real Rail Safety Now! The jury took care of the first one. The fight for the second continues.

The Harding and Labrie Defense Committee has worked with groups from Lac-Mégantic, Montreal and across the US organizing the existing broad consensus that the wrong people were on trial and working to combat the disinformation campaign by politicians and their rail industry sponsors. It has delivered thousands of petition signatures from Québec and elsewhere to the Crown prosecutors and raised money for the political defense of the rail workers.

More information: Twitter:#SafeTrainsNow

Teamsters Canada Calls For Government To Take Responsibility

Teamsters Canada


Laval, January 19, 2018 — The Teamsters Union is relieved by the acquittal of three Montreal, Maine & Atlantic workers who were accused of criminal negligence causing death in the Lac-Mégantic derailment. The lengthy trial highlighted major shortcomings in the rail industry and the Teamsters believe it is now time for Transport Canada to act decisively to ensure the safety of the general public and of workers.

“Installing cameras to monitor train workers does nothing to improve safety in this industry, warned Teamsters Canada President François Laporte. Increasing safety requires hiring railway inspectors, allowing workers to rest when they are tired, and most importantly, monitoring the rail carriers very closely as well as ensuring a transparent public consultation before granting a rail carrier an exemption to a safety rule.”

“These are the types of measures that will reduce the risk of such a tragedy happening again.”

The evidence filed by the Crown apparently failed to convince the jury: after deliberating for nine days, they returned with a unanimous verdict of “not guilty”.

“My thoughts are, once again, with the families and friends of the victims of the tragedy, said the Union leader. I simply want to tell them that I strongly believe this disaster was caused by a careless employer and that justice will be done when the criminal trial of the MM & A is over.”

The Teamsters union represents close to 125,000 workers across Canada, including 12,000 workers in the rail industry. The International Brotherhood of Teamsters has 1.4 million members in North America.


Stéphane Lacroix, Director of Communications and Public Affairs
Cell: 514-609-5101

From Railroad Workers United (RWU) of North America:

Press Release

Friday, January 19th, 2019 at 2:40 PM Central Time

For Immediate Release

For more information Contact: Ron Kaminkow, RWU General Secretary

phone:608-358-5771 or 202-798-3327


RWU Statement Upon the Acquittal of Canadian Railroad Workers

Railroad workers – together with all citizens concerned with worker justice – across the continent are celebrating the acquittal of Canadian railroaders who were wrongly accused by the Crown for the tragedy at Lac-Mégantic in which 47 people were killed when a long and heavy oil train crashed and exploded in the middle of that small town in July of 2013.

At the time of the wreck, Railroad Workers United (RWU) had spoken out quickly, releasing a statement within a week condemning the reckless practices on the rail carrier – the Montreal, Maine and Atlantic (MM&A) – and its renegade CEO Ed Burkhart. Since then, RWU has defended the railroad workers, denying that they in any way should be charged with a criminal offense, demanding that the charges be dropped, and that the Crown charge the real criminals – the MM&A bosses and the government regulators who had turned a blind eye to their irresponsible actions regarding safety.

Once the workers were arrested, RWU took part in protest actions, assisted with organizing a defense committee, began raising funds for the defense, and attempted to raise awareness of the issue on both sides of the border. Despite the overwhelming evidence of company recklessness and irresponsibility, the Crown refused to drop the charges, and proceeded onward to the trial which finally commenced – more than four years after the event – in September 2017.

While the prosecution focused largely on a single event – the alleged failure of the locomotive engineer to tie enough handbrakes, they were tripped up at every turn by their own witnesses – government, company, “expert” and otherwise – who, by their testimony, incriminated the company and the government regulators rather than the defendants.

Some of the highlights that were revealed at the trial include:

1 – The implementation of single employee train crews just months earlier, had played a key role in the wreck. One other railroad that had been operating trains in this fashion for years (QNSL) had provided 10 days of training and made 69 safety accommodations prior to the implementation of such operations. The MM&A did none of these, while the government stood idly by. After the wreck however, Transport Canada outlawed the further implementation of the practice.

2 – The MM&A had allocated practically no funding for safety or emergency training, nor standardization of rules compliance, and had a terrible safety record compared to most rail carriers.

3 – The train in question was thousands of tons over limit. Significantly, the company had no set policy for the number of handbrakes that were necessary to secure such trains. That number remains in question, but experts now agree that the number for such a train on such a grade is well more than had been considered at the time.

4 – The train – by company policy – was left unattended on the mainline on a steep grade with no derail or other means of protection against runaway.

5 – The train’s lead locomotive was defective, and ultimately this fact would catalyze the runaway. Despite awareness of this fact, the company had failed to make necessary repairs to it, nor utilize it as a trailing unit in the consist. In addition, the mainline trackage was in a dilapidated state because of deferred maintenance by the carrier.

6 – Company policy was to leave the train’s automatic brake in the release position, even though the generally accepted practice by railroad policy and law is to leave unattended trains with the automatic brake in the “full-service” (fully applied) position. Every car of the train could have had its air brakes fully applied, but the company – against general rule and wisdom of a hundred years – insisted that engineers not set the air brakes on the train when leaving the train alone. Had this reckless and bizarre policy not been insisted upon by MM&A, the train almost certainly could not have rolled away.

All told over the course of four months, the jury gained a picture of a railroad company that was oblivious to safety concerns, one far more interested in making money than in the safety of its workers or trackside communities. While RWU applauds the jury’s verdict and sees the acquittal as a victory – not just for the MM&A railroad workers but for all railroad workers – we must remain vigilant. Railroad carriers in the U.S., Canada and elsewhere are intent on criminalizing employees, pointing the finger at them when something goes wrong, as a means of deflecting attention away from their own failures, whether it be inadequate training, lack of qualifying time, chronic crew fatigue, deferred maintenance, dangerously long and heavy trains, inadequate staffing and more. Railroad workers must be ready, willing and able to come to one another’s defense to prevent the rail carriers and the state from criminalizing our behavior while they – the real criminals – get off Scott free.

Railroad Workers United
Solidarity — Unity — Democracy

From Around The World, Reaction To The Victory!

Congratulations from Italian railroad workers

Immagine incorporata 1

Dear Brothers and Sisters,
We are happy and moved by the absolution of Tom Harding and the other two MMA railroaders accused of the Lac Mégantic disaster.
Immediately we followed the case, informed the Italian railway workers and expressed solidarity with Tom, convinced that the real culprits were those looking for profit.
Let Brother Tom and the rail brothers get our warm embrace.
Now we will work to invite you and them to Italy!

Lac-Mégantic Jury Refutes Gov’t Frame Up Of Rail Workers

3 former MMA rail workers acquitted in Lac-Mégantic disaster trial

Locomotive engineer and 2 others found not guilty of criminal negligence causing 47 deaths

By Alison Brunette, Kalina Laframboise, CBC News Posted: Jan 19, 2018 2:12 PM ETLast Updated: Jan 19, 2018 3:48 PM ET

Train engineer Tom Harding leaves the courtroom Friday after hearing the verdict in Sherbrooke, Que.

Train engineer Tom Harding leaves the courtroom Friday after hearing the verdict in Sherbrooke, Que. (Ryan Remiorz/Canadian Press)

Jurors have acquitted the three former Montreal, Maine and Atlantic (MMA) railway employees charged with criminal negligence causing death in the 2013 Lac-Mégantic rail disaster.

Locomotive engineer Tom Harding, 56, rail traffic controller Richard Labrie, 59, and operations manager Jean Demaître, 53, were all charged after the derailment of a runaway fuel train early on July 6, 2013. Several tankers, carrying highly volatile crude oil exploded, turning downtown Lac-Mégantic into an inferno and killing 47 people.​

There was an audible gasp in the courtroom when the verdict was delivered early Friday afternoon.

Labrie couldn’t hold back tears as he described his relief. He said that his thoughts are with the community of Lac-Mégantic.

“I would like to say the people of Lac-Mégantic, what they went through, they showed a huge amount of courage,” he said.

“I wasn’t intending to cry. But I can tell you it was difficult — it was a long process.”

The eight men and four women on the jury had been deliberating since Thursday morning, Jan. 11, at the Sherbrooke, Que., courthouse, after a marathon trial which began last September.

The jurors have endured countless hours of technical testimony from train experts, heard dramatic audio recordings of emergency workers and railway employees from the night of the explosions, and listened to other former MMA employees called as Crown witnesses describe a work environment with little regard for safety standards and no budget for training.

Quebec Superior Court Justice Gaétan Dumas thanked the jury members for their work, telling them that the case wasn’t easy.​

“You are the most enthusiastic jury I have ever seen,” he said.

Downtown Lac-Mégantic was consumed by fire following a fuel-train derailment on July 6, 2013. (Reuters)

‘These aren’t killers’

Jean Clusiault, who lost his daughter Kathy in the explosion, praised the verdict outside the courtroom.

“I felt relieved because these are not the right people who should be there,” he said.

Jean Clusiault

Jean Clusiault was relieved when he heard the jury’s verdict. He lost his daughter Kathy in the Lac-Mégantic rail disaster. (Radio-Canada)

Clusiault said Harding, Demaître and Labrie didn’t deserve to be blamed for the fatal rail disaster and explosion in downtown Lac-Mégantic.

“These are human beings with families who worked hard all their lives,” Clusiault said.

“These aren’t killers. We treated them like killers.”

Last, ill-fated journey

Harding, who pitched in on the night of the disaster, helping emergency responders detach the fuel cars that hadn’t exploded, was the driver of the ill-fated fuel train.

He picked up the 73-tanker car train in Farnham, Que., 60 kilometres southeast of Montreal, on the afternoon of July 5, 2013.

Late that evening, he left the train idling on the tracks in the village of Nantes, 13 kilometres west of Lac-Mégantic, where it was to be picked up by an American crew the following day.

During the three-month trial, the court heard how a fire broke out in the smokestack of that locomotive shortly after Harding left it unattended.

Firefighters arrived and extinguished the fire, shutting down the locomotive’s engine and breakers, which disabled the air brakes that were securing the train. Jurors heard that less than an hour later, the runaway train barrelled down the tracks, derailing in downtown Lac-Mégantic. The resulting explosions engulfed the town in flames.

Several of the Crown’s 31 witnesses described Harding as an experienced, knowledgeable and helpful co-worker, which the Crown alluded to in closing arguments.

“Despite all comments on Harding, on July 5, he failed to do his job,” prosecutor Sacha Blais told the jury.

“A careful engineer would have foreseen the danger.”

Much of the Crown’s testimony revolved around the seven handbrakes Harding applied to the train, whether the engineer tested them and how many would have been sufficient to secure the train properly.

In closing arguments, Harding’s lawyer, Charles Shearson, countered that the engineer followed the MMA’s general operating instructions.

Shearson listed a number of other factors that contributed to the derailment, including the safety of one-man crews and MMA’s failure to conduct a risk assessment on the consequences of parking a heavy fuel train on a slope at Nantes. The Transportation Safety Board’s report identified the rail line between Nantes and Lac-Mégantic as the second steepest grade of any stretch of track in Canada.

Jean Demaître, the ex-MMA operations manager was charged with criminal negligence. Richard Labrie, far right, is a former MMA rail traffic controller faced the same charge. (Alison Brunette/CBC)

Accused waived right to mount defence

Harding, as well as the other two accused, waived their right to mount a formal defence to the charges.

Labrie, the rail traffic controller on duty that night, was on shift 200 kilometres away in Farnham, relying on information being provided to him by telephone, his lawyer, Guy Poupart, reminded the jury in closing arguments.

Poupart said the Crown failed to “demonstrate in any way that a rail traffic controller placed in the same position as Labrie and given the same information, would have acted any differently.”

CRIME Lac Megantic Trial jury thomas harding

Former Montreal, Maine and Atlantic locomotive engineer Thomas Harding leaves the court during a break in the trial in September. (Ryan Remiorz/Canadian Press)

Demaître, MMA’s senior manager in Quebec, was at home near Saint-Jean-sur-Richelieu and on call on the night of the disaster. The Crown argued he had been negligent, ignoring complaints about the lead locomotive’s mechanical defects.

“A supervisor should have ensured all safety,” Blais concluded.

Demaitre’s lawyer, Gaétan Bourassa, urged the jurors to distinguish between his client’s actions and those of his former employer.

“This is the trial of Jean Demaître, not the trial of MMA through Jean Demaître,” Bourassa said in his closing arguments.

“There is a tremendous difference.”

With files from CBC’s Elysha Enos, Claude Rivest

Jury Again Requests Clarification