The body that oversees Quebec's legal profession admits it could have done a better job protecting victims of the Lac-Mégantic rail disaster from a notorious ambulance chaser who descended on the Quebec town to sign up bereaved clients with American lawyers after the deadly derailment.
There were no red flags," says Claudia Prémont, who headed Quebec's bar association until recently. "No one — not the mayor, not the evacuees nor the relatives of those who were killed — picked up the phone to call us and say, 'We need your help.'"
However, the bar association didn't intervene after it was made aware of allegations of solicitation and "disturbing" tactics used by lawyers in the days after a runaway train exploded in Lac-Mégantic, incinerating the town centre and killing 47.
Radio-Canada's investigative program Enquête has obtained a copy of the 2014 letter, sent to the bar association by a witness to the events, which describes locals "in tears" and "at wit's end" after being "harassed" by lawyers.
Those lawyers promised the families of the dead payouts of millions of dollars if they signed on to file lawsuits in U.S. courts.
The bar association could not explain why it did not follow up on the 2014 letter.
Enquête reported in March that one questionable Texas law firm may have pocketed between $10 and $15 million in fees without having done any significant legal work in the aftermath of the tragedy.
Willie Garcia, the man behind the Garcia Law Group, is widely seen as one of the biggest ambulance chasers — also known as a case runner — in the U.S.
Irving Oil has been ordered to pay $4 million after pleading guilty to 34 counts stemming from the 2013 rail disaster in Lac Megantic, Que.
The offences were committed over eight months, from November 2012 to July 2013 involving transportation of approximately 14,000 rail cars of crude oil for Irving Oil.
On July 6, 2013, a train carrying 7.7 million litres of crude oil sped toward the small Quebec town at 104 km/h before derailing, killing 47 people in the resulting fire and explosions.
The federal Public Prosecution Service said Thursday that a provincial court judge in Saint John, N.B., ordered Irving Oil to pay fines totalling $400,320.
It will also pay a contribution of nearly $3.6 million for the implementation of research programs in the field of safety standards under the Transportation of Dangerous Goods Act and its regulations.
Following the train derailment in Lac Megantic, an investigation by Transport Canada and the RCMP revealed that Irving Oil had not complied with all applicable safety requirements by not classifying the crude oil being carried by train as a dangerous good.
In addition, the shipping documents on board the trains were incorrect.
The statement also says Irving Oil did not adequately train its employees in the transportation of dangerous goods, thereby committing an offence under the Act.
What triggered this whole disaster was the local firemen shutting off one of the locomotives because of a small fire (which was standard procedure) but then the railway sent some employee who was a track worker I believe - the point is that he didn't know that the idling engine (that was shut off) was required to maintain brake pressure.
So after a while, after everyone had left the parked train, the pressure in the brake lines dropped enough to allow the train to start to roll down the hill towards the town.
I never read the conclusion about how many mechanical brakes were set on the cars and if that should have been enough to hold the train.
One key element that caused the disaster was that nobody woke the train engineer when the fire occurred or had someone qualified from the railroad to secure the train after the loco was turned off.
I was actually surprised that there was no requirement by Transport Canada to place a brake block on the rails - that would have been a two minute exercise and woyuld have prevented this disaster. I don't think one should ever depend on an idling loco to keep a train like that parked over night.
Residents in Lac-Mégantic say they support the decision of the jury to acquit three former Montreal, Maine and Atlantic (MMA) railway employees charged with criminal negligence causing death in the 2013 rail disaster.
Many in the town say they believe it's not the three accused who deserved to be on trial for their part in the tragedy that killed 47 people, instead pointing the blame at those much higher up the corporate ladder.
A Quebec man whose kid sister was one of 47 people killed in the Lac-Megantic tragedy says the three men acquitted Friday should have never been put on trial.
“I think, very sincerely, that since the day of the accident, these people have been living in purgatory and it must have been extremely difficult,” Bernard Boulet told The Canadian Press. “I’m happy these three people are free.”
A jury found Tom Harding, Richard Labrie and Jean Demaitre not guilty of criminal negligence causing the death of 47 people in connection with the July 2013 train derailment and subsequent explosion.
Boulet says he agrees with the verdicts.
“It was an unfortunate accident,” said Boulet, himself a former railway traffic controller. “It was caused by nonchalance and an accumulation of events — by the nonchalance of the (rail company) owner, Edward Burkhardt.”
Before and during the trial, defence lawyers and Lac-Megantic residents often brought up Burkhardt’s name.
They insinuated it was he who was primarily responsible for the tragedy in his role as chairman of the now-defunct, Montreal, Maine and Atlantic Railway, which owned the train and the tracks on which it derailed.