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Damaged rail containers and twisted wreckage can be seen on the main road through downtown Lac MÈgantic, Quebec early July 7, 2013, a day after a train carrying crude oil tankers derailed and burst into flames. (Moe Doiron/The Globe and Mail)
Damaged rail containers and twisted wreckage can be seen on the main road through downtown Lac MÈgantic, Quebec early July 7, 2013, a day after a train carrying crude oil tankers derailed and burst into flames. (Moe Doiron/The Globe and Mail)


Aug. 21: Rail, rules and responsibility – and more letters to the editor Add to ...

Enforcing the rules

Your editorial (How the Regulators Failed To Crack Down – Aug. 20) concludes: “Regulation is about more than just rules. When violations of the rules turn up, there has to be enforcement.”

You stress the responsibility of Transport Canada, but do not let the Canadian Transportation Agency (CTA) off the hook. The CTA is responsible for a railway’s certificate of fitness, which depends among other things on proof that the company carries sufficient insurance to clean up the mess it makes. Montreal, Maine & Atlantic Railway had $25-million in coverage, which would not even pay the HST on the damage costs of the Lac-Mégantic accident. The Transportation Safety Board report does address this issue, and details the changes that are under way to improve this aspect of the regulatory failures revealed by the tragedy in Lac-Mégantic.

Here’s why it matters to your editorial’s conclusion. The Transport Minister has already made the obvious point that federal officials cannot monitor every kilometre of track, or ride along in the cab of every engine, to ensure that a railway follows its own rules. But if you make the legal liability requirements high enough, the insurance company will make sure that the railway is properly run. A railway carrying volatile Bakken crude may not need the $1-billion in coverage proposed for offshore drilling in the Arctic, but such a railway needs more coverage than if all it ships is lumber.

The CTA is at work on new regulations. They should ensure that railways carry liability insurance appropriate to the risks associated with their cargo, just as we do on our cars and houses, with all the requirements we face before the company will cover us. The CTA should also fix the rules, and their opaque website, to ensure that the implementation of the liability rules is sufficiently transparent that concerned citizens can see that such insurance coverage is in place, that companies file the appropriate financial information on an annual basis, and that a railway informs the CTA of material changes in its operations. Poorly run railways may find that the costs of such coverage would put them out of business. Good.

Prof. Robert Wolfe, School of Policy Studies, Queen’s University, Kingston



In Learning from Scotland’s McReferendum (Aug. 20), Peter McKenna compares the precise question to be answered by Scottish voters on Sept. 18 to those “deliberately vague and ambiguous questions” in Quebec’s 1980 and 1995 referendums. This precision was achieved by the U.K. Electoral Commission’s review of possible questions requested by the Scottish government in November 2012. Four questions were researched and tested: 1. Do you agree that Scotland should be an independent country? 2. Do you want Scotland to be an independent country? 3. Should Scotland become an independent country? 4. Should Scotland be an independent country? The last one will be on the ballot. If there were to be yet another Quebec referendum, would it risk such clarity?

Donald J. Gillies, Toronto


A dark stain

The towering spire of the Canadian Museum for Human Rights practically casts a shadow on the watery grave of 15-year-old Tina Fontaine (‘Society Should Be Horrified’ – Aug. 20). Millions of dollars have been pumped into this institution and yet the federal government still remains obstinate about not launching an inquiry into the deaths and disappearances of more than 1,000 aboriginal women since 1980. As a society we should be horrified. Not because the museum isn’t a worthy endeavour but because the shadow of colonization and government policy toward aboriginal people remains long and dark on our history and still affects the well-being of First Nations people today.

Give us some light, Justice Minister Peter MacKay. Keep collecting statistics on these deaths. Launch an inquiry. Let us all take seriously and to heart how many of us have benefited from the historic marginalization of First Nations people and work tirelessly to redress these injustices. Let this new museum not become only a Tyndall stone repository of rarefied injustices. Instead, let it call us to embrace and vanquish our collective shadow: to work for light and healing so that all nations who share this land may benefit and thrive. Let the short, suffering-filled life of Tina Fontaine not only touch us, but also teach and transform us.

Rob Kleysen, Toronto


Canada’s ongoing failure to protect aboriginal women is a matter of record, and we should be reminded of that fact each and every day. Printing the number of murdered and missing aboriginal women on the front page of The Globe and Mail on a daily basis would be a start. Maybe then the Government of Canada would be politically motivated to act.

Peter Clendinneng, Ajax, Ont.



I take exception to Max Phillips’ “lock the door” philosophy (letter, Aug. 20). My husband also travelled extensively and I was at home with our young children. One night a man hurled a rock through a large window and broke in that way. I had carefully locked all the doors.

The big difference is, neither my husband nor Mr. Phillips were public figures. I have no objection to the RCMP providing security to the Trudeau family or anyone else in the public eye. Would we rather have anarchy?

Lenore Bridge, Goderich, Ont.


Speaking with female friends about the break-in at the home of Justin Trudeau (admittedly an informal poll), we were all in agreement that on the occasions when we are alone in the house at night the routine is always to check that doors and windows are securely locked and for some, setting the alarm system as well adds an extra sense of security. Without exception we were all puzzled by this apparent oversight on the part of Sophie Grégoire-Trudeau.

While I sympathize with the distress Mr. Trudeau’s wife undoubtedly feels, at having exposed herself and her children to the possibility of what could have been an even more unpleasant experience than knowing there had been an intruder and finding a threatening note, I do not doubt that from now on she will be very conscientious about ensuring her home is locked for the night. She might also like to consider the possibility of getting a dog – they are well-known to be a deterrent to anyone considering breaking and entering and are less expensive than an RCMP security detail.

Felicity Brown, Ottawa


Nesting instinct

I thoroughly enjoyed the essay (Lessons From An Empty Nest – Aug. 20) by Linda Webster in which she described the launching of young barn swallows. I had a similar experience watching a mother blue jay train her youngsters. However, once the last fledgling went on its wobbly way, the mother returned and, to my amazement (and amusement), gave the nest a tug, tilting it and making it inaccessible.

Nina Truscott, Burlington, Ont.

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