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Via Rail creates police service with former RCMP officer



When a Via Rail employee was sworn in before a Quebec judge as a police officer last November, it was the first time in 90 years that a Canadian railway company established a police service under the federal Railway Safety Act, according to Via.

The Via Rail Police Service, so far with a former Mountie as its lone sworn member, was created as part of Via’s “priority to ensure the safety of its passengers, employees and the general public,” said Mylène Bélanger, spokeswoman for Via, Canada’s national passenger rail service.

After being sworn in by the Quebec Superior Court judge, Fernand Breau became the first inspector of Via’s new, unarmed police service, Bélanger said. Breau has full enforcement rights of the Canada Transportation Act, other federal laws including the Criminal Code and applicable provincial laws, she said.

Requests to interview Breau were turned down by Bélanger, who said the officer was not available. His out-of-office alert says he’s out of the country. Bélanger did say that Breau has 35 years of experience as an RCMP officer, including “impressive experience in police fields such as anti-terrorist/counter-espionage, narcotics and covert investigation, liaison officer in native communities, suicide intervention trainer and general investigations.”

There have recently been calls for Via to increase security, after the RCMP announced in April 2013 that it had arrested and charged two people with conspiring to carry out a terrorist attack on a Via train. The investigation included other police agencies, including the FBI and the Canadian National Police Service, which according to Via was the last railway company to establish a police service under the Railway Safety Act (RSA) in 1923.

There are no immediate plans to add sworn officers to the Via Rail Police Service and there wasn’t a specific event that pushed the Crown corporation to create the service last November, Bélanger said. “Please note that this has been an ongoing effort for quite some time and no particular event prompted us to move forward,” she said.

The Via Rail Police Service has two other employees: the director of the police service and regulatory affairs, and the senior advisor of corporate security and regulatory affairs, Bélanger said.

Breau, who acts as a liaison between Via and other police agencies, has not laid any of his own criminal charges yet, Bélanger said.

Breau, previously an employee of Via’s corporate security department, had assisted Ottawa police earlier this year. In April, when Ottawa police were investigating signal malfunctions at Barrhaven rail crossings, Breau visited Ottawa and corresponded with local officers about the case, according to documents released to the Citizen under access to information legislation.

Having a sworn officer, rather than just a security department, makes a big difference when it comes to dealing with other police forces, said Wayne Boone, an adjunct professor of asset protection and security at Carleton University’s Norman Paterson School of International Affairs. “Having the badge is very, very useful in trusted information exchange,” said Boone, a retired military police officer.

Since Via has only one officer, Boone said his main job would probably be working with other forces. “They’ve got one guy, so he’s not going to do much in the way of laying charges,” Boone said.

He said he couldn’t speculate what the most pressing types of investigations would be for a modern-day railway. But they’ve shifted from the dominant types when CN Rail and CP Rail created police forces under the RSA, which outlines that enforcement jurisdiction is limited to railway property and areas within 500 metres.

“One of the greatest tasks when the railway police started was dealing with hobos and dealing with people who were jumping the train. That’s much less prevalent today,” Boone said. “They wanted to have some authority to lay charges, instead of just kicking them out there was at least some record kept.”

Other than the RSA, there are other laws that give transit officers law enforcement powers. GO Transit safety officers, for example, are designated as special constables through a program between the Ontario Provincial Police and the provincial Ministry of Community Safety and Correctional Services. Those officers are responsible for tasks, including fare inspections and enforcement of laws, including the Criminal Code.



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  • 10 months later...

That are still coming out, Bob

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