For 40 years, Operation Lifesaver (OL) has been spreading the rail safety message in the hopes of saving lives. To celebrate our 40th anniversary, we’re shining a light on the great work that our Rail Safety Ambassadors do to help us reach that goal.
Rail Safety Ambassadors share our belief that every rail crossing and trespassing-related death or injury can be prevented. We depend on them to deliver rail safety presentations to Canadians across the country, to share our posts and videos on social media, and to lead public education and outreach activities.
Constable André LeBreux has been a Rail Safety Ambassador for almost two decades. He’s also the 2019 recipient of OL’s prestigious Roger Cyr Award. That award acknowledges the important work that Rail Safety Ambassadors like André do to help us save lives.
We spoke with André about why spreading the rail safety message is important to him.
Why did you become a Rail Safety Ambassador?
I would say it’s a family thing. My father was a community police officer for more than 30 years, so I am the second generation of railway police officers. My father introduced me to Operation Lifesaver almost 20 years ago. I strongly believe that one accident is one too many, and through Operation Lifesaver activities and initiatives we can save lives.
What message do you try to get across as a Rail Safety Ambassador?
Unfortunately, many people think they will hear a train approaching. But it’s a mistake to think that we will. So, the message I really want to send is: “Don’t risk your life for a few seconds.” Whether it’s a grade crossing or going under the gate, never take for granted that you have the time to cross in front of a train. If you do it, maybe the person behind you will do the same thing, and you could be leading them towards tragedy.
Is there a particular group of Canadians that you try to reach?
I think it’s important to promote rail safety to young people. Young people are our future. When we do rail safety presentations with young people, we can raise awareness. And this is especially important where there are tracks near schools.
What are some of the behaviours around tracks and trains that really make you shake your head?
The thing that surprises me the most is that people trivialize the dangers of crossing railway tracks at non-authorized places. People say that they will see and hear the train. But as I said earlier, it’s a mistake to think that. A train can take you by surprise. People don’t see the dangers of trespassing on railway property, or of taking a shortcut on a railway bridge, or even of making a hole in a fence to cross tracks. Unfortunately, this type of behaviour is not only illegal but extremely dangerous.
What difference do you hope you make as a Rail Safety Ambassador?
Through my work, I say I’ve made a difference if I have saved even one life. I always say that I would like to retire one day and be able to say “mission accomplished.” It is difficult to know if you are saving lives, but I firmly believe that by making these presentations, we can make a difference in the community. I think we are saving not one, but many lives. Unfortunately, there are incidents, but I am convinced that we can save lives, and that we have.
Why do you think it is important that an organization like OL exists?
Having an organization like Operation Lifesaver allows us to send a consistent message across the Canadian railway network. What we say in Quebec will be said in Vancouver, and in the Prairies. This is the beauty of Operation Lifesaver. We send a consistent message across Canada: stay off the tracks, and look, listen, live at rail crossings.
Want to join André and OL’s team of Rail Safety Ambassadors from coast to coast? Join us in celebrating our 40th anniversary by signing up today—and help us save lives.