Meet the Operation Lifesaver Advisory Committee: Read an interview with committee member Daniel Lafontaine

This week we continue our series of blog posts featuring interviews with the members of the Operation Lifesaver Advisory Committee. These interviews will allow you to get to know the dedicated people who work together to educate Canadians on rail safety, with the goal of preventing railway related injuries and deaths. These committee members work to develop Operation Lifesaver’s national direction, set goals and priorities and offer advice to National Director, Dan Di Tota, on how best to develop and implement Operation Lifesaver’s programs. Our second interview is with Daniel Lafontaine, Chief of Engineering for Transport Canada. Transport Canada is one of Operation Lifesaver’s stakeholders. Transport Canada is a department of the federal government that’s responsible for transportation policies and programs. It ensures that air, marine, road and rail transportation are safe, secure, efficient and environmentally responsible. On when he joined the Advisory Committee and how it happened: “I joined the Advisory Committee in 2008. This was when the Education and Awareness Group of Transport Canada was assigned to my section and I took over the position at Operation Lifesaver.” On why he’s a part of the Advisory Committee: “It’s part of my job but I also have an interest in Transport Canada’s Education and Awareness Program and I saw that Operation Lifesaver was a good complement to what we do.” On how the Advisory Committee works as a team to cover Operation Lifesaver’s “Three E’s” (Education, Enforcement, Engineering): “I’m the engineering pillar. With my engineering background I bring engineering-based ideas to the committee. I make suggestions regarding warnings at crossings, such as when to install them and which specific sign to install. Other committee members represent enforcement and education - we work together to make sure that all of the “Three E’s” are covered.” On what differentiates Operation Lifesaver from the other entities focused on rail safety: “Operation Lifesaver is impartial. It’s not the government, it’s not the railway, and it’s not one of the municipalities. It’s an independent body that has a message – it’s real. There’s no bias.” On why Operation Lifesaver complements Transport Canada's rail safety education efforts: “We’d had a few bad accidents involving pedestrians, school children in particular. So we took the information Operation Lifesaver had on pedestrians and we built a guide at Transport Canada based on what Operation Lifesaver was doing. We tried to communicate this to every community where we saw problems. To me, this was a great success story – alone Transport Canada would not have been able to do this, but with the help of Operation Lifesaver we reached many, many students. We’d been doing community based education (meeting with mayors, school boards, police etc.), while Operation Lifesaver was focusing on school children, so their model allowed us to reach a new demographic. It only worked because we worked together – Operation Lifesaver was really hands-on and that was the part that our program had been missing.” Check back next week for our third Advisory Committee interview with the committee's co-chair, Luc Bourdon, Director General of Rail Safety for Transport Canada.