Find Lawyers in Quebec, Canada for Railroad Law
Practice Area Overview
A railway has been defined as "a track or set of tracks of steel rails for the passage of trains conveying passengers and goods;" or as such a system constructed or operated by a single company, along with the organization and personnel required for its working. A “railroad” is the U.S. version of the noun. So “railroad law” necessarily encompasses a broad subject matter, and expertise may extend to one or more of the elements of the railway, its works and organization and personnel, and related specialized advocacy or counsel.
Counsel to clients on the general creation and governance of a railway involves familiarity with constitutional principles to establish which jurisdictions apply to the construction or operation of a particular railway undertaking – and familiarity with Canadian federal railway regulatory authority over inter-provincial and international railways (and those “declared to be for the general advantage of Canada”) is to be paired with familiarity with the different ways and extent in which provincially-governed railways are regulated. Federally, new legislative provisions (Canada Transportation Act) direct the process by which a railway operating certificate may be secured, and the conditions under which it may be continue to be held or amended, particularly as to maintenance of a safety management system, adequate insurance, identification of accountable senior management, and continued observance of rail safety standards.
Representation of passenger and commuter railway operators requires familiarity with the specialized legislation and mandates of such carriers, usually provincial, and of these operators’ liability to their passengers and communities, in addition to a railroad lawyer’s required knowledge of the broader rail sector law, regulation, and contracting principles.
Canadian railroad law engages advice and representation of railways or of any shippers, municipalities, and others active in business or engineering works with railways. Relations between railway companies and shippers are regulated, with rail service obligations, statutory expression of common carrier principles, rate and tariff terms oversight and shippers’ remedies, and provision for negotiation of confidential contracts governing the terms of commercial rail service. A railroad lawyer may craft commercial agreements establishing the contract terms of dealing with shippers and of working with municipalities and road authorities through which a railway line may pass; or establishing the terms of equipment or materials supply to a railway and the contracting of railway services.
Canadian railroad counsel also provide advocacy in rail regulatory proceedings, principally involving the Canadian Transportation Agency as to crossings and rail projects and utility crossings but extending to other matters such as noise and vibration complaints, conflicts between operators as to access terms and ‘interswitching’, and conflicts between railways and others on cost allocations and liabilities.
Rail safety issues have a particular importance, and involve counsel as to dealings with Transport Canada and its rail safety inspectors, and as to the regulation of all manner of engineering and operating standards, including tanker car standards and other matters of employee and public safety. For railway employers, general issues arise of employment law, human rights (some in relation to rail safety-sensitive position management), labour standards, and accident investigation (including dealing with the TSB).
Liability and claims management in the railroad sector call for experienced advocacy in personal injury suits, claims of loss or damage to cargo, and all related dealings with insurers, arbitrators, and the courts. Land use issues call for railroad counsel familiar with the history of land acquisition and use, and for competence in dealing with spills and remediation and regulatory agencies, as well as customary commercial leasing and land transfer practices and precedents related to railways. The claims of indigenous peoples in relation to lands taken for railway purposes call for special sensitivity and context.
Canadian railroad counsel, recognized for competency in Canadian railroad law, may work in association with or as a resource to other counsel not generally practising in the area, to give specialized advice and representation.
L. Michel Huart joined the firm in 2006 following a lengthy career in the railway industry, where he held the position of General Counsel for Canadian National. He was Solicitor for the Canada Labour Relations Board and for the Canadian Transport Commission before joining VIA Rail following its creation in 1978. At VIA, he was Solicitor and Deputy General Secretary until 1984, when he became VIA’s General Superintendent, Transportation, for Quebec. He later held the position of Director...
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