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Social Science Disasters & Disaster Relief

The Lac-Mégantic Rail Disaster

Public Betrayal, Justice Denied

by (author) Bruce Campbell

James Lorimer & Company Ltd., Publishers
Initial publish date
Oct 2018
Disasters & Disaster Relief, Government & Business, Environmental Policy, History, Environmental, Energy Industries
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    Publish Date
    Oct 2018
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    Oct 2018
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The July 6, 2013 Lac-Mégantic rail disaster is a tragedy unparalleled in Canadian history. It resulted in major loss of life, massive environmental destruction and the evisceration of a small Quebec town. Blame landed squarely on the shoulders of three front-line employees of the Montreal, Maine, and Atlantic Railway Company. But a jury acquitted them.

Lac-Mégantic is the story of a rail industry writing its own rules, a booming US oil industry based on fracking, fighting any obstacles to selling their dangerous product, and a rogue US railway operator cutting corners to make his fortune.

At another level the story is about a federal government blinded by its own free market ideology, fixated on making Canada an energy superpower, and compliant bureaucrats failing to protect the public interest.

At the heart of it all is a small, tight-knit community torn apart and struggling to recover. There is unimaginable loss, broken lives and families, and individual and collective trauma. But there is also healing, solidarity, commemoration, remembrance, and the determination to rebuild and transcend.

This book uncovers the truth about Lac-Mégantic. It includes first person interviews with many of the key players, analysis of the corporate executives and the companies involved, an examination of the complex world of transport safety regulation in Canada, and an account of the trials of the three accused.


About the author

BRUCE CAMPBELL is a former Executive Director of the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives, one of Canada's leading independent think tanks. He is the author of three major reports and a number of media commentaries on The Lac-Mégantic Rail Disaster. For his work on Lac-Mégantic, Bruce was awarded a Law Foundation of Ontario Community Leadership in Justice Fellowship and spent 2016 as a visiting professor at the University of Ottawa Faculty of Law. Throughout his career, Bruce has written numerous reports on economic policy, trade and investment, Canada-US-relations, and the political economy of oil. His commentaries have appeared in major newspapers and online news sites across Canada. His previous books include the edited volumes Living with Uncle: Canada-US Relations in an Age of Empire and Medicare: Facts, Myths, Problems & Promise. Bruce is currently Adjunct Professor, York University, Faculty of Environmental Studies, and Senior Fellow, Ryerson University, Centre for Free Expression. He lives in Ottawa.

Bruce Campbell's profile page


  • Nominated, 2019 Ottawa Book Award - English Non-Fiction
  • Long-listed, The Miramichi Reader's "The Very Best!" Book Awards (Non-Fiction)

Editorial Reviews

"Itemizing the confluence of avoidable conditions that caused the catastrophe, and not afraid to assign blame, the book pays tribute to a resilient community even as it leaves us with the uneasy feeling that, if fundamental changes aren't made, something similar might happen again somewhere."

Montreal Gazette

"Underscores the profound disconnect between our view of pipelines and our view of railways ... The Lac-Mégantic Rail Disaster urges us to slow down and fix the problem."

Literary Review of Canada

"The Lac-Megantic Rail Disaster not only vividly captures the horror of the 2013 derailment inferno that killed 47 Quebecers, but also shows how little Ottawa has done to prevent a similar catastrophe from happening again."

Toronto Star

"You'll find this book very informative on what the governments of the day (Liberal or Conservative, Federal or Provincial) have (or more likely haven't) done to ensure another Lac-Mégantic doesn't happen. Brutally honest reading."

Miramichi Reader

Other titles by Bruce Campbell