TRAINS COLLIDE IN CANOE RIVER CRASH
DANIEL REALE- CHIN
Globe and Mail
Travelling through British Columbia’s mountainous terrain, a westbound train carried 315 Canadian soldiers and 23 officers headed for deployment in the Korean War. A Canadian National Railway cross-country passenger train was heading east on the same stretch of tracks. On this day in 1950, the two trains collided head-on at Canoe River, B.C., killing 17 soldiers and the two-person crew on each locomotive. John (Jack) Atherton, a CN telegraph operator on the route, was charged with manslaughter for transmitting a train order incorrectly, causing the crash. John Diefenbaker, a lawyer and member of Parliament for Prince Albert, Sask., defended the 22-year-old, saying the wooden cars of the troop train were responsible for the soldiers’ deaths. By this time, passenger trains no longer used wooden cars. “Everyone in the CNR is running away from responsibility for what appears to have been a previous disregard for human lives,” wrote Mr. Diefenbaker in his memoir. His defence got Mr. Atherton acquitted and Mr. Diefenbaker went on to become the 13th Prime Minister.