Environment Canada raids CN offices 

Looking for evidence about Cheakamus derailment, investigator says

By Vivian Moreau

Environment Canada’s lead investigator is not saying much about last week’s raid on three CN offices with officers looking for evidence in relation to the August, 2005 derailment and spill in the Cheakamus Canyon.

Meanwhile, the Transportation Safety Board of Canada has still not released its report into the cause of the accident that saw a tanker car split and discharge 41,000 litres of caustic soda into the river after a nine-car derailment about 20 kilometres north of Squamish.

The spill killed over 500,000 fish — “every free-swimming fish occupying the Cheakamus River,” according to a provincial report. The disaster caused a rift between environmental groups and provincial Ministry of Environment officials about how best to restore stocks.

Last Thursday B.C. Conservation and Environment Canada officials, as part of their own investigation into the derailment’s consequences, conducted an unannounced search of CN offices in Surrey, Prince George and Edmonton, according to John Dike, Environment Canada’s manager of investigations. Dike confirmed provincial and federal officers executed warrants to search the offices looking for evidence in relation to the 2005 spill but wouldn’t say much more.

Dike couldn’t explain why it was necessary to conduct an unannounced raid on the offices 20 months after the accident but did say searches like last week’s are quite common. He said in his 10 years with Environment Canada he has known of dozens of similar investigations.

“Here in Environment Canada we have a division of enforcement officers made up of inspectors and investigators and intelligence officers and this is what we do,” Dike said. “You have an allegation of a violation, you conduct an investigation, you use the tools that are available to you and you hope to come to a conclusion.”

CN spokesman Jim Feeny said the corporation co-operated with the search and has done so consistently with various investigating agencies since the derailment occurred.

Meanwhile, B.C.’s Minister of Environment, Barry Penner, said last month he had personally complained to the Transportation Safety Board about the length of time it was taking to release its report on the cause of the derailment.

The much-anticipated report has been delayed several times and the chief investigator into the incident now anticipates it will be released next month. That would be just three months before a two-year statute of limitations against legal suits related to the spill comes into force.

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