October 2, 2017 1:25 pm
Updated: October 3, 2017 8:47 am

Are the right people on trial for Lac-Mégantic train disaster?

WATCH ABOVE: Jean Paradis, who survived the Lac-Mégantic train derailment but lost three close friends, says he doesn't want answers from the three men on trial for criminal negligence. He wants to hear from the executives at Transport Canada and MMA.

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Three men are currently on trial in the Lac-Mégantic train derailment that killed 47 people and destroyed much of the small Quebec town on July 6, 2013.

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Former Montreal Maine and Atlantic Railway Ltd. (MMA) train engineer Tom Harding, railway traffic controller Richard Labrie and manager of train operations, Jean Demaitre, are charged with 47 charges of criminal negligence causing death.

READ MORE: Lac-Megantic’s Musi-Cafe rises from the ashes

“People have moved on,” said Lac-Mégantic director-general Marie-Claude Arguin.

“I might be in trouble for saying this, but are the right people on trial? I don’t know.”

Residents from the small town say they just want to move on with their lives.

Jean Paradis told Global News that on the night of the accident, he was inside the Musi-Café.

WATCH BELOW: Lac-Mégantic defence lawyer ‘optimistic’ on Day 1 of trial 

Standing outside the courthouse Monday, he said he can still remember hearing his friends’ cries for help as they perished in the fire.

READ MORE: 1st witnesses testify in trial of 3 men in Lac-Mégantic train disaster

He says he doesn’t want answers from the three men on trial; he isn’t happy that MMA executives are “in the States. They’re with their money” and not facing questions in Quebec.

“Transport Canada has let those cheap companies run railroads for less money, for making more money instead of acting for security for people,” Paradis told Global News.

“Security should be first. Not third.”

A court sketch of Crown Prosecutor Véronique Beauchamp giving her opening statements on the first day of the criminal negligence trial for the Lac-Mégantic train disaster, Mon. Oct. 2, 2017.

Mike McLachlan

After analyzing the Transportation Safety Board (TSB) report, Jean-Paul Lacoursière, a chemical engineer at the Université de Sherbrooke, found that upper management should be involved in this trial — if at least to testify.

READ MORE: Lac-Mégantic residents call on Trudeau to move forward on rail bypass

“It appears from the TSB report that the company has tolerated improper braking practices, did not provide appropriate braking practice and did not ensure the employees were properly trained and demonstrated that they understood the training,” he told Global News.

“The TSB report indicates that improper repairs were conducted on the locomotive that caught fire the tragic night.”

Lacoursière notes the TSB found that MMA lacked leadership by not effectively managing risks, implementing safety management systems and providing ineffective training.

READ MORE: Two years later: rebuilding after the Lac-Mégantic train derailment

He argues leadership must come from the highest authority in a company through procedures and resources to make sure equipment and policies are up-to-date.

WATCH BELOW: Looking back at the train derailment

“Leadership is not only words, but a deep involvement of the leaders ensuring that what they stated is implemented,” he told Global News.

“Leadership is not the flavour of the moment, but a deep and permanent involvement.”

READ MORE: Settlement reached in Lac-Mégantic lawsuit to compensate victims

Lacoursière points to a “weak safety culture” from Transport Canada that did not encourage MMA to train its employees properly.

A court sketch of SQ officer Jacques Lafrance, a crime scene technician with Quebec’s provincial police, during the first day of the Lac-Mégantic trial, Monday, Oct. 2, 2017.

Mike McLachlan

He noted that the case holds some resemblance to the Westray Mine explosion in Nova Scotia, which led Parliament to adopt Bill C-45 in 2004.

READ MORE: Lax safety measures, poor training led to fatal Lac-Mégantic rail disaster

“The Bill established new legal duties for workplace health and safety, and imposed serious penalties for violations that result in injuries or death,” Lacoursière explained.

“The Bill provided new rules for attributing criminal liability to organizations, including corporations, their representatives and those who direct the work of others.”

A town on fire

The incident happened at 1:15 a.m. when a runaway train with 72 oil tankers — owned and operated by the now bankrupt railway company Montreal Maine and Atlantic Railway Ltd. (MMA) — barrelled into the town at over 100 km/h.

READ MORE: Lac-Mégantic criminal negligence trial to begin Monday, as residents seek to move forward

The locomotive, and subsequently the airbrakes, were then shut down after a small fire on the train, causing the air to bleed off and the train to start sliding.

Dozens of homes and businesses were destroyed and about 2,000 residents were evacuated.

READ MORE: 1st witnesses testify in trial of 3 men in Lac-Mégantic train disaster

The bilingual trial is taking place in Sherbrooke, Que., about an hour and a half away from Lac-Mégantic.

A conviction on criminal negligence causing death can carry a maximum penalty of life in prison.

The trial is expected to last until Dec. 21.

rachel.lau@globalnews.ca

© 2017 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.

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