Marc Cassivi: It’s rare that we talk about the poster of a TV series, especially documentaries, but this image of wagons with a fuse, as if they were sticks of dynamite, sums up the series quite well, I find.

Philippe Falardeau: I really like that because it was an idea that allowed us both to not put a spectacular image of fire, and at the same time to have something visceral. A stick of dynamite in the shape of a train is a concept that is not too intellectual. There is something that comes to get us in the guts. And that made it possible to arrive with this subtitle which I loved and which I had a little more difficulty selling, because there were fears that it looked like a camouflaged accusation. No one is named. I wanted to set the table for discussion, and with “this is not an accident”, we immediately have material to start a conversation.

M. C.: And it refers to a sentence that shocked me in the documentary, when [the Minister of Transport at the time] Denis Lebel arrives in Lac-Mégantic shortly after the tragedy and declares, with very little empathy, that “an accident is an accident”. It really is completely trivializing what happened.

P. F.: That was something that shocked me too. After that, he goes on and he says, “We’re going to treat what happened like all the other accidents.” It’s not like any other accident. It’s very different, and it needs to be handled very, very differently. At that time, his role was to stretch the time a little because he already knew that he was about to leave his ministry a few days later. And the other thing is, he knowed that it was under his ministry and under his tenure that the single-driver practice on trains had been approved.

M.C.: What you highlight in the series is the complacency of Transport Canada and the ministers who did not want to talk to you about an industry that regulates itself, that decides its own safety standards, which takes control of the scene of a disaster, makes its own investigations when there are deaths, and draws its own conclusions…

P. F.: We guess that these are companies that have enormous lobbying power, but also a kind of ancestral right that gives them an arrogance that does not exist in other sectors, because they built the country.

M.C.: It’s almost a state within a state…

P.F.: Exactly. In the fourth episode, there’s a locomotive engineer out west who had the courage to talk to us, and he says, “When I’m driving my locomotive, I look out the way and that’s Canada. But when I look between the two rails, it’s the Kingdom of Canadian Pacific. Its president is the king and he is a monarch. And the board members are barons and baronesses. »

They know very well that if the economy starts to go wrong overnight because the trains are slowed down or stopped, it is the politicians who will end up paying the price. The voter goes to the lowest common denominator: it’s the government’s fault. I think one of the solutions would be to separate the mandates of promoting the economy via transport and the surveillance of these companies, as is the case in aviation. Because the citizens are on the planes, whereas it is mainly goods that are on the trains.

M.C.: I feel like the laxity that the show is about is the laxity of just about everyone. There is a lawyer in Lac-Mégantic who says that we may have been lax in his city because the train drives the economy. There is a laxity, obviously, on the part of Montreal Maine

P. F.: I’m glad that [this lawyer] Daniel Larochelle said: “We too, at Mégantic, we need to look each other in the eye. Everyone knew a little, but no one dared to speak. This is even truer at the Department of Transportation and the Transportation Safety Board (BTS). In Western Canada, when there was a tragedy in Field, the lead TSB investigator said that it should be referred to the RCMP. The next day, he was removed from the investigation. CP was sending legal letters to the TSB. He wanted to talk to us, arranged to meet us at a hotel in Calgary, but in the end, he let us down. He was too scared. It was like a spy movie.

M. C.: The series reminds us that disasters like that of Lac-Mégantic, there can be others and in the heart of downtown Calgary, Montreal or Toronto, where the deaths will be counted by the hundreds or by thousands. The federal government says it wants to protect citizens, but encourages industry to make trains longer and faster, to the detriment of citizen safety, in a way.

P. F.: The whole safety system is based on the fact that the companies make their own rules, and Transport Canada evaluates the implementation of these rules. Then the oil producers put the pressure on, the grain producers and the agricultural producers put the pressure on, and so on. There are 40 companies that have been sued by the class action lawsuit of the citizens of Lac-Mégantic. Quickly, these 40 companies offered compensation in exchange for a legal release. Which means they contributed tens of millions to the compensation fund to get immunity.

M. C.: Anne-Marie Saint-Cerny [whose book served as the basis for the documentary] is right that companies knowingly accept that there will be deaths. But not just businesses…

P. F.: A former employee of the office of [former Minister of Transport] Marc Garneau told me that these people know that in the long term there is a cost-benefit analysis of lives that is done because that’s too much money. Some companies prefer to live with a risk and pay the premiums if ever there are “accidental” deaths. This will always be more profitable than slowing down production.

M. C.: The dead are seen as the collateral victims of a business that cannot do otherwise.

P.F.: Exactly. One of my favorite scenes is when I’m with [former MMA railroad controller] Richard Labrie, and I ask him, “Parking an oil train on the main track on a grade without derailleurs, that’s was known to Transport Canada? Approved by Transport Canada? We feel that he is relieved to be able to answer yes, without any hesitation. It was a key moment for me. I realized it was much bigger than I thought.