Methodology of the study of railway suicide in Canada

This study was financed by Transport Canada (TC) and conducted by the Center for Research and Intervention on Suicide and Euthanasia (CRISE), at the Université du Québec à Montréal (UQAM). The need for an analysis of railway suicides arose from a concern by TC about the safety of railway operations.

This study involved building a comprehensive database of railway suicides in Canada over 10 years. This data has made it possible to better understand the scope and nature of railway suicides. It has also helped identify potential hotspots and to describe characteristics of suicidal people who choose to end their life on the railway.

Our data includes the last ten years of available records ranging from 1999 to 2008. A ten years period provides a good overview of the scope of the problem and helps compensate for annual variations.

In order to obtain the most accurate description of the situation, we cross-referenced 3 data sources:

  • Files from the Transportation Safety Board
  • Files from railway companies police services (CN and CP)
  • Files from Coroners and Medical Examiners

Overall, the most comprehensive data source were the coroner’s files (see record keeping issues section for details ). Data were collected on both accidental and suicidal deaths.
This report is based upon data from the following provinces: Alberta, British Columbia, Manitoba, New Brunswick, Ontario, Québec, and Saskatchewan. The other provinces and territories did not have usable records, had no railway fatalities, or class one railways operating during the period of the study.

Database content

Our data base contains information on the following:

  • Identification of the time and place of the incident
  • Geographic and environmental description of the site of incident
  • Railway company and train identification
  • Type of incident
  • Description of the victims and of their psychosocial background
  • Description of the victims’ behaviours on the day of the incident and during the incident
  • Information about the train crew, their roles and actions

The final sample included 1129 cases of railway fatalities that took occurred between 1997 and 2008.