The recent monstrous rail tragedy in Lac Megantic, Quebec, leaves us deeply saddened over the terrible destruction and loss of life, and wondering what or whom we can trust in this confused and confusing world. How safe are we on the highways and bridges and beside the rails? How vulnerable are we in our bedrooms? We have no idea what caused the train to slip its moorings and run amok in Lac Megantic. Did the brakes fail? Brakes won’t fail if they are properly maintained and used within the specifications. Were the brakes not set according to the guidelines? Are the guidelines unclear? Can sabotage be ruled out? We do know that almost every accident, whether it’s a fall from a stool in the kitchen or taking a tree on the head in the wood lot, could have been prevented. We wait for answers.
We trust every day: that the approaching driver is awake and in charge of a well-maintained vehicle; that the processed food is safe to eat; that the parachute will open on demand. Life as we know it would come to a smoking halt if we didn’t trust.
But is trust enough? No! Trust is not enough. Even if the people in charge of big rail, big road, big money, or big ideas are pleasant, jolly, good sports, and pick up the restaurant tab, trust is not enough. We have to ask some probing questions when the safety of the community is at stake and we have to hold some feet to the fire (our political masters, our industry moguls, our own feet).
All of us in Chetwynd are conscious of, and occasionally inconvenienced by, the lines of steel bisecting our community. But do we ever think of what goes on behind the scenes, around the bend, up the grade? We hear the clatter and the rumble and the hooting. Have we heard of the near misses and the explosions that didn’t happen?
Why should it take a Lac Megantic to stir us to take a look at our own situation? Chetwynd is not unlike hundreds of other communities across this great land. Rails and roads cut through our vitals and we’ve become accustomed to that which we cannot change. The commerce of the nation and the products of our own hands move down these essential links with the world. Life as we experience it would change without the rails and roads. We are not ready to go down that road yet.
A meeting is being arranged with CN officials to discuss issues and concerns important to our wellbeing, safety, and peace of mind.
Your Mayor, Council, and District Administration will insist that we be kept informed of issues on the interface of community and the major transportation links. In plain English: we want to know the nature of the hazards that face us as we go about our daily routines. Chetwynd must not become another way to spell Lac Megantic.
Merlin Nichols, Mayor