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e-3984 (Transportation)

E-petition
Initiated by Pamela Fraser from High River, Alberta

Original language of petition: English

Petition to the Government of Canada

Whereas:
  • Sections 44 and 44.1 of the Railway Safety Act (RSA) authorize Canada’s for-profit railway companies to own police forces;
  • Corporate railway police officers wield criminal law powers, but the constables are corporate employees who answer solely to the companies’ civilian management;
  • Through their private police forces, railway companies have investigated and exonerated themselves of criminal liability in deaths and serious injuries under their watch;
  • Protecting shareholder value conflicts with the companies’ duty to enforce the criminal law solely in the public interest;
  • Allowing private corporations to investigate themselves criminally violates the rule of law;
  • CP Railway and CN Railway operate their police forces across the Canada-U.S. border, which endows them with state-like powers over cross-border criminal law enforcement, customs, immigration, and national security;
  • From their Canadian headquarters, CP’s and CN’s chiefs of police command and discipline their company’s U.S. police officers, even though neither chief is an authorized police officer in the U.S.;
  • Given the recent upheaval and public debate around police accountability in the U.S., Canada must reform outdated legislation that undermines the 21st century accountability standards the U.S. is working to institute; and
  • Police forces must be public institutions, not corporate assets to be bought and sold on the stock markets.
We, the undersigned, Canadian citizens, call on the Government of Canada to repeal sections 44 and 44.1 of the RSA and legislate a new, federal, independent public railway police of Canada that is funded by the railway companies but answerable to an independent civilian oversight commission.

Response by the Minister of Transport

Signed by (Minister or Parliamentary Secretary): The Honourable Omar Alghabra

The Government of Canada recognizes the fundamental role of police independence, accountability, and oversight in Canada’s criminal justice system. In Canada, railway police constables are appointed by a judge of a superior court for the enforcement of the Canada Transportation Act, as well as for the enforcement of Canadian or provincial laws as they relate to the protection of property owned, possessed, or administered by a railway company, and for the protection of persons and property on that property. Under the Railway Safety Act, railway police constables have jurisdiction within 500 metres of railway property that the rail company owns, possess or administers. Railway police services do not operate alone. Other police services (e.g., RCMP, provincial police, and local police services) have the discretion and independence to determine when an investigation is warranted, to conduct investigations into alleged criminal conduct, and, depending on the findings, to recommend criminal prosecution.

Transport Canada’s top priority in the rail sector is the safety and security of Canadians and their communities. The Department has taken many measures to better protect Canadians who live and work near rail lines to reduce the risk of serious accidents and will continue to do what is needed to further improve safety and security.

The Standing Committee on Transport, Infrastructure and Communities (TRAN)’s recent report Railway Safety and the Effects of Railway Operations in the Surrounding Communitieswhich can be accessed athttps://www.ourcommons.ca/DocumentViewer/en/44-1/TRAN/report-5/, recommended that the Government of Canada amend section 44 and 44.1 of the Railway Safety Act to remove the potential conflict of interest from the jurisdiction of private railway police in investigations involving their companies. In the Government Response to the Fifth Report of the Standing Committee on Transport, Infrastructure and Communities which can be accessed at https://www.ourcommons.ca/content/Committee/441/TRAN/GovResponse/RP11941375/441_TRAN_Rpt05_GR/MinisterOfTransport-e.pdf, it was noted that the Department will engage with experts in police governance and accountability who have the knowledge and expertise to provide preliminary findings that will contribute to the determination of next steps. Transport Canada is committed to working with partners to strengthen the security and safety of our railway system.

 

Open for signature
May 10, 2022, at 8:44 a.m. (EDT)
Closed for signature
July 9, 2022, at 8:44 a.m. (EDT)
Presented to the House of Commons
Taylor Bachrach (Skeena—Bulkley Valley)
October 20, 2022 (Petition No. 441-00770)
Government response tabled
December 5, 2022
Photo - Taylor Bachrach
Skeena—Bulkley Valley
New Democratic Party Caucus
British Columbia
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