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

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