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Feds lay out proposed new rules for voice, video recorders in locomotives

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OTTAWA — The federal Liberals have laid out their proposal for rules around voice and data recorders on locomotives, specifying when companies can use the devices to address safety concerns and how workers’ privacy will be protected.

Legislation passed by Parliament required the government to come up with regulations for the recorders, which are similar to “black boxes” on airplanes.

Transport Canada wants to limit companies’ uses of the recorders’ data to instances where there is reason to believe that crew activities led to a collision or derailment or similar incident and only to a small window of time.

The rules are subject to a 60-day consultation period, after which the federal cabinet would have to enact the regulations, which likely won’t occur until after this fall’s election. 

The 18 rail companies subject of the new rules would then have two years to have recorders installed — a process that is estimated to cost $76 million, according to a federal analysis.

Transport Minister Marc Garneau said the devices will make Canada’s rail system safer.

“Having these devices at the very least will help us understand when there is an accident … what was the cause of that accident and that in itself will help us to lower the possiblity that that same cause will be responsible for subsequent accidents,” he said.

When legislators debated the proposal two years ago, Unifor, Teamsters Canada and the federal privacy commissioner all raised concerns that the recording devices could be used for discipline that has nothing to do with a rail incident.

There were also concerns about what happens to the data on the recorders when trains cross the border with the United States.

The proposed regulations say that rail companies will have to respect requirements under the federal private-sector privacy law, including rules on how the information must be handled and who can access it and strict limits on its use to situations like federal investigations.

“It is a decision we have taken because of safety motivations, but we’re very conscious of the fact that we must be sensitive to privacy rights,” Garneau said.

“We very, very carefully, I believe, have crafted these regulations to ensure that privacy is addressed while at the same time having access to the information in a number of situations.”

And the regulations also detail what could be considered a threat to railway safety, such as using cellphones or personal entertainment devices execpt as provided by company policies, and consuming alcohol or drugs.

“We wanted to deliberately define those so there wouldn’t be any arbitrary determination of other kinds of things going on that would be considered a threat,” Garneau said.

The Canadian Press


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Liberals to reject Senate changes to solitary confinement bill

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OTTAWA — The Liberals are poised to reject the Senate’s amendments to a bill that aims to end the practice of solitary confinement.

The government’s response to the Senate’s package of amendments details why the Liberals won’t accept a key change requiring a judge to approve any decision to isolate a prisoner beyond 48 hours.

Public Safety Minister Ralph Goodale says in a letter to the Senate that such a change would increase the workload of provincial courts and require the appointment of new judges to compensate.

Sen. Kim Pate, a lifelong advocate for prisoners’ rights, disagrees.

She says the government is spending money on hiring external reviewers for solitary confinement decisions with dollars that could be used to hire more judges, who have greater expertise and independence.

Pate says the law would be unconstitutional if the Liberals pass the bill without the Senate’s amendments.

The Canadian Press


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Chief military judge’s court martial in limbo after deputy recuses himself

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OTTAWA — The court martial for Canada’s chief military judge is in limbo after the judge overseeing the trial, who happens to be deputy to the accused, agreed not to hear the case over conflict-of-interest concerns.

Lt.-Col. Louis-Vincent d’Auteuil also outlined the reasons why he felt the military’s other three sitting judges would not be able to preside over Col. Mario Dutil’s trial in an impartial manner.

That has left the fate of Dutil’s court martial, seen by some as a critical test for the military-justice system, up in the air.

Dutil was charged with eight counts in relation to allegations he had an inappropriate relationship with a subordinate and knowingly signed a travel claim for $927.60 that contained false information.

Four of the charges were dropped at the start of the court martial last week, where Dutil’s lawyer challenged d’Auteuil’s impartiality and asked the presiding judge to recuse himself. A publication ban on details of that portion of the hearing has since been lifted.

In agreeing to the request, d’Auteuil said it was reasonable to believe he would be biased because of his relationship to several witnesses — which he believed also applied to other military judges.

The Canadian Press

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