Skip to main content

Politics MPs condemn Netflix for using footage of Lac-Mégantic rail disaster in Bird Box, Travelers

Netflix should compensate the people of Lac-Mégantic for using footage of the 2013 rail disaster there in fictional dramas, Canada’s members of Parliament have agreed unanimously.

The motion they passed is non-binding, an expression of sentiment and not a law. But it’s a stern rebuke from Canada’s Parliament aimed at the online streaming giant, after footage from the rail explosion that killed 47 people in the Quebec town was used in the hit movie Bird Box and the series Travelers.

MPs are demanding Netflix remove all images of the Lac-Mégantic tragedy from its fiction catalogue – a plea that has also been made by Quebec’s Culture Minister Nathalie Roy and Lac-Mégantic Mayor Julie Morin.

Story continues below advertisement

Netflix has apologized, saying it was not aware of the source of the footage, and has agreed to take steps to avoid using it in future productions.

But the company has refused to remove the images from Bird Box, a disaster movie released late last year.

That’s something NDP MP Pierre Nantel, who introduced the House of Commons motion this week, says he cannot accept.

“We know people are going to go and watch this film, and again these real images will be used,” he said. “For people in Lac-Mégantic, they saw images of their own downtown burning, and could imagine their own family members in it.”

He noted the movie was produced by Netflix and exists almost exclusively online – so it’s not a case of a production company trying to recall movies widely distributed to cinemas or to consumers on DVDs.

“It’s online, it’s their own and it’s an image that is easy to switch out.”

Netflix refused comment Wednesday, pointing only to a letter the company sent last week to Ms. Roy in response to her concerns. In it, the company’s public-policy director Corie Wright says while Netflix “understands that many feel frustration and sadness at seeing images of this tragic event,” the company cannot make changes to “finished content.”

Story continues below advertisement

As for the demand from the House of Commons that Netflix pay compensation to the community of Lac-Mégantic for using the rail disaster for entertainment purposes, the company had no comment.

Netflix has been a lightning rod of discontent in Quebec ever since it agreed to invest $500-million over five years in Canada as part of the federal government’s cultural policy, which included a promise to set up a Canadian production facility.

Netflix committed to spend $25-million to develop French-language content, but the lack of a contractual obligation to produce and stream it came under heavy scrutiny in Quebec, where former federal culture minister Mélanie Joly and her plan were pilloried and dismissed as naive. Ms. Joly has since been shuffled to Tourism, Official Languages and la Francophonie.

Mr. Nantel says he does not want to conflate the taxation and Canadian-content concerns involving Netflix and other streaming services with this specific issue, but he did point out that if a traditional Canadian broadcaster had used Lac-Mégantic footage in a similar way, the Canadian Broadcast Standards Council could be called on to intervene.

“Like Ms. Roy said, you cannot leave your broadcasting system to be some sort of Wild West where everybody is doing whatever they want,” he said.

Report an error
Due to technical reasons, we have temporarily removed commenting from our articles. We hope to have this fixed soon. Thank you for your patience. If you are looking to give feedback on our new site, please send it along to feedback@globeandmail.com. If you want to write a letter to the editor, please forward to letters@globeandmail.com.

Welcome to The Globe and Mail’s comment community. This is a space where subscribers can engage with each other and Globe staff. Non-subscribers can read and sort comments but will not be able to engage with them in any way. Click here to subscribe.

If you would like to write a letter to the editor, please forward it to letters@globeandmail.com. Readers can also interact with The Globe on Facebook and Twitter .

Welcome to The Globe and Mail’s comment community. This is a space where subscribers can engage with each other and Globe staff. Non-subscribers can read and sort comments but will not be able to engage with them in any way. Click here to subscribe.

If you would like to write a letter to the editor, please forward it to letters@globeandmail.com. Readers can also interact with The Globe on Facebook and Twitter .

Welcome to The Globe and Mail’s comment community. This is a space where subscribers can engage with each other and Globe staff.

We aim to create a safe and valuable space for discussion and debate. That means:

  • Treat others as you wish to be treated
  • Criticize ideas, not people
  • Stay on topic
  • Avoid the use of toxic and offensive language
  • Flag bad behaviour

Comments that violate our community guidelines will be removed.

Read our community guidelines here

Discussion loading ...

Cannabis pro newsletter