Canadian Manufacturing

Union launches defence fund for workers charged in Lac-Megantic incident

Tom Harding and Richard Labrie facing 47 charges of criminal negligence in connection with disaster

MONTREAL—The United Steelworkers (USW) union has launched a defence fund to help a pair of workers charged in connection with the deadly Lac-Megantic, Que., rail incident cover their legal fees.

“We are launching this fund in solidarity with these workers to ensure they have access to a full and complete defence,” USW Quebec director Daniel Roy said in a release.

Tom Harding and Richard Labrie were charged in connection with the disaster on May 12—roughly 10 months after an unattended Montreal, Maine and Atlantic Railway Ltd. (MMA) train rolled into the heart of the tiny Quebec town, incinerating most of its core and killing 47 people.

Railway management blamed Harding, an engineer, for failing to set enough of the train’s brakes.

The Quebec provincial prosecutor said 47 counts of criminal negligence have been filed against Harding and Labrie, MMA’s traffic controller.

Also facing charges is Jean Demaitre, manager of train operations, and the now defunct MMA railway itself.

“This type of trial can be very expensive and destroy lives,” the USW’s Roy said. “We are appealing to people’s generosity to help ensure that these workers are not made scapegoats while those who are truly responsible for this tragedy come out of it without a scratch.”

Roy and the union have maintained that the blame falls to company management and the federal government for allowing MMA to run trains operated by only one employee.

“The charges against these workers and the proceedings that are to come are simply a smokescreen to divert attention from the real causes of this tragedy: Deregulation brought in by the federal Conservative government, and the shoddy management of (MMA),” Roy alleged in his statement.

None of the allegations have been tested in court.

—With files from The Canadian Press

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