Photo of several truckloads of American firefighters, Saturday, July 6, 2013, near the site of the Lac-Megantic disaster.
Credits: QMI AGENCY
Is eco-terrorism to blame for the explosion and fire on the weekend in Lac-Megantic, QC? Thomas Mulcair doesn't think so. He thinks Stephen Harper is to blame. He says Harper has cut back on inspections of Canadian trains, so that's why so many people were killed.
The problem with that theory, though, is Inspector Mulcair made his conclusions mere hours after the explosions, while firefighters were still working. That is, he just made it up. And then there's the troublesome fact that in the past four years, the Conservatives have added 20 new railway inspectors and auditors to the national system, taking the number to 103. Train derailments are actually down 26% since 2007.
Well, is there any other possible explanation? The railway company itself put out a press statement stating, "the locomotive of the oil train ... was shut down subsequent to the departure of the engineer ... which may have resulted in the release of air brakes on the locomotive that was holding the train in place."
In other words, after their engineer parked the train for the night, someone may have tampered with it. Ed Burkhardt, the railway chairman, said someone fiddled with the braking mechanism from both outside and inside the train.
If that's true, who would do such a thing?
Canadian anarchists might. In fact, they did, if they're to be believed. On June 26, an anarchist website bragged that they "disrupted" both the CN and CP mainline near Hamilton, Ont., by tampering with railway wiring. They did so out of solidarity with other protesters who had broken into a pipeline pumping station, they said. "Freight traffic is an easy target for our resistance," they wrote.
It's one thing for anonymous braggarts to make a claim online. It's another to build a blockade on the train tracks and put out a press release. But that's exactly what an extremist group in Maine did two weeks ago. They swore they'd stop trains of oil from North Dakota headed for Canada - just like the one that blew up in Lac-Megantic.
The group is called 350 Maine and they blockaded the railway into the dead of night, until police finally arrested six of them.
The actions of 350 Maine are part of a U.S. campaign that's called Fearless Summer. In Canada it's called Sovereignty Summer. Same tactics, same funders, same organizers. It's "direct action" against oil companies.
Their typical tactic is violence against property and defiance of police. An exploding fireball that kills people is not in their playbook. But what if some activist thought he was simply sabotaging a train to cause it to leak oil or to fall off the rails - no risk to life - but instead it accidentally went hurtling into a town to explode? That's the thing about industrial vandalism - it doesn't always go as planned.
Did some overly passionate Fearless Summer activist come up from Maine to finish the job? Did some of the activists from the Enbridge pumping station go to Quebec for a project? We don't know. Like Thomas Mulcair, we're still guessing. But it is a public fact that the oil industry is under attack both north and south of the border and anti-oil anarchists brag about sabotaging trains.
The question for Quebec investigators is whether they'll follow up with avowed, law-breaking enemies of oil trains - or just keep pretending they don't exist in a country as civilized as ours.