Like all media outlets, The Hub hears the response “no comment” quite often.

Like freedom of religion, freedom of speech and freedom of the press include the right not to participate if a person doesn’t want to say anything.

However, there are occasions when freedom not to speak clashes with some other important issue, like public safety.

And when public safety involves a major corporation and a police force, they should have a responsibility to start talking.

Such is the case with a collision between a train and a pickup truck in Hay River on March 11.

Somewhat amazingly, CN declined to comment on the incident.

The Hub was not seeking information about personnel issues or internal financial matters, but about an accident that raises a concern for all motorists in the community.

So what should the community make of CN’s silence? To be honest, it’s hard to know what to think.

It might be harsh to say so, but it seems to indicate a dismissal of the concerns in Hay River. It is hard to imagine a similar reaction by CN to such an accident in the south.

The decision not to say anything came from CN’s public affairs office in Montreal.

Can you imagine CN public affairs declining to comment if there had been a collision between a train and a motor vehicle in Montreal or Toronto? Would the response have been the same if the media calls had come from Le Devoir or The Globe and Mail, instead of The Hub and CBC North? Is there really any need to even answer that question?

While CN’s lack of any public statement on the accident was pathetic, the RCMP response was not much better. CN said nothing, and the RCMP said next to nothing.

According to a brief statement issued to CBC North and then The Hub, the RCMP said it responded to the collision and provided assistance, and it directed further enquiries regarding railway infrastructure and trains to CN. 

Most curiously, the RCMP stated that, “There was no criminal element identified, so RCMP do not have an ongoing investigation.”

Perhaps members of the public can now use that reasoning in dealings with the RCMP. If a Mountie pulls you over for speeding, tell the officer to run along because going over the speed limit is not a criminal matter. See what happens.

As for the RCMP pointing out that the accident involved railway infrastructure and trains, that is true, of course. However, the incident also happened on a public roadway crossing over said tracks.

If it wasn’t for Ross Potter, the director of protective services with the Town of Hay River, the public would know almost nothing about the accident, other than what they could see while driving in the area on March 11.

While recognizing Potter for helping to inform the public on a serious matter, The Hub is disappointed, surprised and frankly annoyed by the lack of information from CN and the RCMP.

The Hub was given a “no comment” from CN and not much more from the RCMP, but it is really the residents of Hay River who are not receiving information on a matter that involves their safety.

That is completely unacceptable.

Paul Bickford

Paul Bickford is the reporter for Hay River Hub.

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