Mass murder in Lac-Mégantic

The Dangerous Goods Driver’s Handbook for Canada starts with a disclaimer that states:

“The transportation of dangerous goods is subject to complicated and changing Government regulations. Transport Canada has a comprehensive set  of regulations, which must be observed when transporting dangerous goods.”

And it is law. If you are going to ship dangerous goods in Canada, you are subject to these government regulations. If you fail to comply with these regulations, you are committing a criminal offense. And it seems logical that if anybody dies because of your criminal offense, one of the charges will be murder.

And that is why we are waiting for the other shoe to drop on the Lac-Mégantic disaster. On September 13 The Financial Post said that the Transportation Safety Board had found that crude oil in the rail tank cars had been mislabelled. It was further stated in the article that the responsibility for the labelling of the material rests with the importer who provided the bill of lading for the shipment of these dangerous goods through Canada. The Financial Post claims this was the responsibility of Irving Oil of New Brunswick.

Since 47 people have been determined to have died in the events at Lac-Mégantic on July 6, 2013, it appears to be the second most serious mass murder in Canadian history after Air India Flight 182.

While to the average person, crude oil is crude oil, there are actually three different transportation categories. They require increasingly rigorous precautions, containers and safety measures. What works against safety is that the lower the flash point or simply the more flammable the crude oil, the more it costs to ship it safely. And this is in a mainly self-regulated industry.

Somewhere between the North Dakota origin of the crude oil and its crossing into Canada, that crude oil was labelled as less flammable than it actually was. That was why the 72 tanker cars were suitable for a safer product but not for the real danger.

While the Sûreté du Quebec has informed the media that they are going to make an arrest soon, they lack the authority to make an arrest in Saint John, New Brunswick. And, while it might be a bit of a stretch to arrest one of the late K.C. Irving’s sons, it seems appropriate. Despite everyone looking for a middle management scapegoat, it is the top people in the company who are responsible for the company’s ethos. And dear old KC left us with an ethos of greed.


Copyright 2013 © Peter Lowry

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