The Quebec National Assembly Calls For A Public Commission Of Inquiry

Quebec MNAs call for public commission of inquiry into Lac-Mégantic disaster

PQ motion will be sent to Ottawa for consideration

Downtown Lac-Mégantic in Quebec was ablaze on July 6, 2013, after a runaway train loaded with crude oil derailed, exploded and caught fire. (Radio-Canada)

The Quebec National Assembly is calling on the federal government to launch a public commission of inquiry into the Lac-Mégantic rail disaster as soon as possible.

Quebec MNAs adopted the Parti Québécois motion Wednesday morning, with all 115 members present in the chamber offering their unanimous support.

The motion will now be sent to Ottawa for consideration.

Nicolas Marceau, MNA for Rousseau, tabled the motion along with members from all political parties represented in the legislature, including Liberal Mégantic MNA Ghislain Bolduc.

Marceau was applauded by his colleagues after reading the motion.

Past calls for a commission of inquiry

Lac-Mégantic residents had called for a commission of inquiry into the disaster — and rail safety more broadly — in January, after three former employees of the Montreal, Maine & Atlantic company were acquitted on charges of criminal negligence causing death.

In May 2015, Lac-Mégantic City Council passed a resolution calling on the federal government to hold an independent public inquiry.

Despite pressure from residents, the then federal government of Stephen Harper rejected the request.

The Transportation Safety Board conducted a technical investigation into the disaster. In its report published in August 2014, the board said, “Transport Canada must take on a more hands-on role” to ensure that rail safety management systems are working effectively.

The Transportation Safety Board of Canada conducted a technical investigation into the derailment, but Lac-Mégantic residents want to see a full public inquiry. (Jacques Boissinot/Canadian Press)

Robert Bellefleur, a spokesperson for the Lac-Mégantic citizens’ coalition for rail safety, said a commission of inquiry would allow the government to identify rail safety risks and adjust regulations accordingly.

“It’s the only way to go through all the elements that led to this disaster. It’s not for fun — it’s for the purpose of preventing others elsewhere in Canada,” Bellefleur said in French.

“A broader investigation is absolutely essential so that Transport Canada can again play its real role as a watchdog for rail safety in Canada.”

Reconstruction continues

In July 2013, the federal government committed $60 million to support response and recovery efforts in Lac-Mégantic. That money including $35 million for the government’s economic recovery initiative.

The initiative provided direct assistance for the town’s reconstruction as well as support for businesses in the community.

While there is still reconstruction work to be done, the urgent needs resulting from the accident have been addressed, according to a midterm evaluation of the initiative published last month by Canada Economic Development for Quebec Regions.

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