Spreading the rail safety message—and preventing rail tragedies—is a team effort. Operation Lifesaver (OL) Canada depends on its Rail Safety Ambassadors and communities across the country to help it achieve its goal of saving lives. The Roger Cyr Awards
are our way of giving these important partners the recognition they deserve.
Named after OL Canada’s founder, these awards recognize individuals and communities that are doing outstanding work to prevent deaths and injuries at railway crossings and as a result of trespassing on railway property. A single award has traditionally been given out during Rail Safety Week to an exceptional OL partner or volunteer, but last year, we added an additional award for an outstanding community.
As part of Rail Safety Week 2023 (September 18th
), OL is pleased to present the individual 2022 Roger Cyr Award to Phil Breden, and the 2022 Roger Cyr Award for Communities to the town of Wemotaci, Que.
Phil Breden: Volunteering his time to prevent tragedies in British Columbia
Phil Breden joined Operation Lifesaver as a Rail Safety Ambassador in 2018, and is currently the chairperson of OL’s British Columbia Committee. Originally from New Zealand, Phil is a life-long train enthusiast who fell in love with the Canadian Pacific Railway when he moved to Canada—which is one of the reasons he got involved with OL.
“Because of my love of trains, I don't want people to get hurt,” he explains. ”Also, as a railfan, you're going out and photographing trains, videoing trains, and you’ve got to make sure that people are not getting too close to the railway tracks.”
One of Breden’s favorite things about being a Rail Safety Ambassador is working with children.
“They're the next generation, and a lot of them aren’t taught about the dangers of trains by their parents—because maybe their parents aren’t aware either,” says Breden. “I hope that people listen and understand the rail safety message and realize the dangers. Especially kids that are out playing.”
Wemotaci: Working at the community level to stop track tragedies
The Atikamekw community of Wemotaci, Que., located 200 kms north of Montreal, is one that’s experienced a rail tragedy first-hand. In September 2018, an 8-year-old boy from the community was killed when he and some friends were playing on a railway bridge and a train suddenly came along the tracks. The other children were able to get off the bridge in time; the boy was not.
Since that tragedy, Wemotaci has taken steps to ensure that community members of all ages understand the risks associated with tracks and trains. Wemotaci has partnered with OL to launch rail safety prevention initiatives in the community, and has brought Rail Safety Ambassadors to deliver presentations to two schools during Rail Safety Week in recent years.
“The Wemotaci Police Service has made strong efforts to educate the Atikamekw community about the importance of rail safety. With this increase in education, we have seen significant positive shifts and we are very grateful to the Wemotaci Police Service and to the entire Atikamekw community for their activism. CN is proud to call them a true partner in rail safety,” says Stephen Covey, CN Chief of Police and Chief Security Officer.
Operation Lifesaver wishes to extend its congratulations and thanks to both the community of Wemotaci and to Phil Breden for their outstanding efforts in promoting rail safety. We look forward to awarding them their Roger Cyr Awards this fall.