Meet OL Rail Safety Ambassador Constable Johanne Lesage

Operation Lifesaver (OL) is marking 40 years of saving lives. To celebrate, we’re shining a light on the great work that our Rail Safety Ambassadors do to help us spread the rail safety message to Canadians across the country.
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, share our posts and videos on social media, and take part in educational events.
Constable Johanne Lesage is one of our newest Rail Safety Ambassadors. She’s been a VIA Rail police officer since March 2020. She spoke to OL about why she thinks spreading the rail safety message matters.
What are some of the things about tracks and trains that people just don’t understand?
People see railways everywhere. They see grade crossings. But they don’t think that trains can be dangerous. I actually think there is a bit of recklessness, even if it’s not intentional. By giving advice to communities, we can prevent accidents and dangerous behaviours. I hope my work as a police officer will encourage people to think about safety. I am not there to slap on people’s wrists, but to prevent situations that could be very serious.
Can you give an example of how you try to raise awareness through your work?

I recently met a family at a grade crossing where people go to watch trains go by. People think that because there are rocks on the side of the tracks, they can stay there to watch the trains. The children in this particular family were two, five and eight years old. Of course, their mother wouldn’t intentionally let them be in an incident, but she didn’t realize that they were too close to the tracks. So, I think that raising awareness and talking with people like that will help in the future, because it will ensure those children understand that trains can be dangerous.
Why do you think it’s so important to reach kids in particular with the rail safety message?
Today’s young people are tomorrow’s future. But young people must understand what rail safety is, what it implies, and why we say certain behaviours are dangerous. We don’t want young people to be reckless. We want them to have fun outside, but they think that they won’t be hit by a train. People often think that because the train is big, they will hear it coming. But they won’t because trains are very silent. So, it will be too late.
How do you try to get the rail safety message across when you do presentations?

We often have real-life examples. There is a tragic case where a young boy was crossing a railway bridge, but by the time he saw the train it was too late. I think young people don’t see the danger. That is why we must use these real-life cases. By presenting those cases, young people can see that these tragedies don’t only happen elsewhere, they could happen to them. And who knows, maybe they will talk about it to their friends or their families.
Why do you think it’s important that an organization like OL exists?
Operation Lifesaver is important because it educates not only people who work in the area of safety, like me, or other police officers across Canada. OL educates everybody. And the more volunteers we have, the better we can spread the word and raise awareness in the community.
Want to join Johanne 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.