Another week, another CP Rail incident in the Rocky Mountain national parks and it has a lot of people feeling extremely uncomfortable with the safety record for freight train transportation in western Canada.
There are plenty of reasons to be concerned about rail safety in the national parks. There is a risk to human life. On Feb. 4, three CP Rail employees died as a result of a train derailment near Field B.C. in January – an incident that saw 99 rail cars leave the track inside a UNESCO world heritage site.
Immediately after this incident, Minister of Transport Marc Garneau announced mandating the use of handbrakes should a train be stopped on a mountain grade after an emergency use of the air brakes.
There is a risk to the ecological integrity and processes inside the national parks, which were established and under federal legislation are mandated to protect these natural and valued places.
This last derailment along the Bow Valley Parkway west of Banff is an example of how when materials being transported inside the freight trains that pass through the mountains each day can have an effect on the natural environment.
While many people have focused concerns around the potential risk of crude-oil or other materials that could pollute the environment as a worst case scenario, a canola grain spill in the middle of grizzly bear habitat is an ecological disaster as well.
This is not a simple clean up situation and will take a proper remediation plan approved by Parks Canada to be dealt with. Every particle of grain spilled inside the national park is a wildlife attractant for various species, but it is the threatened grizzly bear that is of the greatest concern.
That is because grain along the railway tracks attracts bruins to the tracks where they are struck and killed by CP Rail trains in the Rocky Mountains.
With an average of 24 freight trains travelling through the Bow Valley every day, this presents a real risk to the species that Parks Canada is responsible for managing.
With overturned grain cars spilling their contents next to the Bow River and along the Bow Valley Parkway last week, Parks Canada must hold CP Rail accountable for this incident.
This industrial incident is clearly a contravention of the Canada National Parks Act and if every single grain isn’t removed before grizzly bears begin to emerge from their dens, the ecological effect of this train derailment will be compounded.
While Transport Canada and Canadian Transportation Agency are responsible for regulating freight transportation by rail in the country, Parks is responsible for Banff National Park and the ecological processes at play within its borders.
Accountability is needed given the number and severity of these incidents. Whether it is through Transport Canada, which has the authority to examine the issue of derailments and safety for rail transport through an overarching investigation, or Parks Canada through the courts.
Continuing to let this company operate with a business as usual approach to safety is no longer good enough for Canadians.