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Helping to Make it Happen

March 6th 2015 by Yves Desjardins-Siciliano

This year, the International Women’s Day organization has an important theme, promoted through the tagline “Make It Happen”. It’s a reminder that if we want something done, we need to engage and be a part of the change.

At VIA Rail, the importance and benefits of having both sexes represented equally is a responsibility and an opportunity we don’t take lightly.

Historically speaking, the railroad industry has been predominantly male, but times are changing, and VIA Rail is helping to “Make it Happen”. We make great efforts to attract a diverse workforce through our Employment Equity and Multiculturalism program, and foster a workplace that is inclusive.

In 2014, we are happy to report that we made strides in the right direction, especially at the Board, executive and senior management levels. Following the appointment of two new Directors, our 10 Board members (not including the CEO) are now evenly divided in terms of gender, placing VIA Rail in the forefront of board gender equality for both public and private corporations in Canada. Two women and five men make up the Officer team, and our senior leadership team (comprised of 39 managers) is 28% female.

Our efforts as an employment-equity employer, and our successes so far, are a source of pride and inspiration for VIA Rail. Of course, leadership is key to making it happen. VIA Rail is fortunate to report to the Honourable Lisa Raitt, Minister of Transport, who made clear her expectations in this regard.

Here’s wishing everyone a very happy International Women’s Day this March 8th.

The Moonlighters

February 27th 2015 by Jennifer Bauer

Every time we hear new stories from people who love taking the train we aren’t surprised, but we are delighted. Railfans, foodies, commuters who prefer to leave their cars at home; each group has their own unique reason for riding the rails.

Recently, we learned about a group whose love of train-riding was based on the moon cycle. This was a new one, even for us. Turns out, the group, who call themselves “The Moonlighters” book their travel according to the full moon, so that they can admire the landscape from the windowed dome car at its most romantic. When the moon is full, the light it gives off is exceptional, and the moonlit landscapes are moving – especially when not diminished by city lights. So how does one find themselves in the middle of beautiful vistas, in the middle of the night, without city lights? By taking one of our long-haul or remote trains, of course.


In early February, during the full moon, The Moonlighters once again boarded our Canadian train, taking a trip between Vancouver and Toronto. Not only were they enchanted by the breathtaking views at night, they also got to spend cozy days on our warm trains listening to live folk music (through our artists-on-board program), sharing amazing meals with friends, playing “Rummikub” and sipping hot chocolate. Not a bad way to spend a few days in the middle of the unforgiving Canadian winter.

Thanks to “Moonlighter” Ira Silverman for providing the above images taken over the past few years of train-riding.

If you have stories about why you love taking the train, send them to us through Facebook, Twitter, or to me directly at @VIRailPrez.

Pick Your Official Language

February 13th 2015 by Yves Desjardins-Siciliano

At VIA Rail, we’re pretty serious about promoting and supporting the country’s two official languages.  We were recently given a rating of “exemplary” for our On Train Entertainment system (available in both English and French, of course) from the Commissioner of Official Languages. Aside from the On Train system, we’ve got several other projects on the go.

In January, our internal survey about the use of the two official languages at VIA Rail was completed. Within our offices, big strides have been made to make sure every person can work comfortably in the language of their choice. As a corporation, every official document we create, internally and externally, is available in both English and French, including our advertisements, videos, press releases and reports. We are proud that since 2008, when our first official language survey was conducted, our performance has been steadily improving.

As part of our mandate to promote both official languages, we support many organizations and events that work with communities in linguistic minority – both French communities in English environments and vice versa. Some of the French communities we work with include the Fondation Franco-Ontarienne and the Association des francophones et francophiles du Nord-Ouest and the Théâtre du Cercle de Molière in Winnipeg, Manitoba.

This March, VIA Rail will be attending and supporting the Québec Community Groups Network’s (QCGN) Young Quebecers Leading the Way campaign.  The QCGN is a non-profit organization linking over 40 English-language community organizations in Quebec. VIA will be the official transporter for travelling youth, and as the keynote speaker, I am thrilled to be launching the 2015 event.

The event itself is taking place at the Morrin Centre, whom we also support. The Morrin Centre is an English-speaking cultural center in the historical quarter of Québec City that provides rich, engaging programming to both the (minority) Anglophone and the Francophone communities. The most recent event, their “Literary Feast” had as its theme the Fathers of Confederation. Supporting the Morrin Centre and having an opportunity to talk about the 150th anniversary of Canada coming up in 2017… it was win-win for us.

But that’s not all! We’re taking this opportunity to “Become a Portal Ambassador”! The Government of Canada recently launched their Language Portal of Canada, a great website where you can take fun quizzes, check terminology and translations and gain access to a host of very useful writing tools. Check it out and spread the word:

Have your say through our Facebook and Twitter accounts as well as my personal Twitter account @VIARailPrez – in the language of your choice!


Three Reasons to Celebrate

January 23rd 2015 by Yves Desjardins-Siciliano

The Holidays may be over, but there are still a few reasons for celebration here at VIA.

Celebrating 40 years of service!

This month we are holding employee recognition events at many of our regional locations, and it is one of the best times of the year. I get to travel by train to our many locations, have more discussions with passengers about our services, and continue with the next chapter of the employee listening tour. At each location, the employees who are celebrating a commitment to VIA Rail that spans from 5 to 40 years of service are recognized. The loyalty and devotion of these employees have made their mark, and are a source of endless pride for VIA Rail. We can now boast the fact that we offer the best customer service in the passenger transportation industry, all categories combined. To those employees who are taking their well-earned retirement this year: VIA Rail thanks you for leaving behind a better company that the one you joined years ago. We hope you all enjoy the recognition events, which are a tangible sign of appreciation that you so wholeheartedly deserve.

In other news, since the launch of our partnership with the Institute for Canadian Citizenship (ICC), more than 8,000 trips have been made on VIA Rail trains by new Canadian citizens. This is a project that is near and dear to our hearts, for many reasons. Most of us have family stories about our ancestors arriving to Canada from another land, and many of us hear about the train trips that brought them to the cities and towns they now live in. There is quite simply no better way to learn about Canada than aboard a train. Over the next few years, VIA Rail will be working to make that statement ever truer, but turning the train into an opportunity to learn about Canada: through the food we serve, the entertainment we offer on board and through other projects that are currently in the works. Stay tuned!

Finally, 2015 is the year we recognize the bicentennial of Sir John A Macdonald, forefather of the Canadian national railroad. On the weekend of January 11th, we were in Kingston attending events to kick off this year of celebration. In 2015, the very well-received Salon theatre actors will once again board our trains – this time going both east and west on the Canadian and the Ocean routes – to enlighten and inform our passengers with songs and skits based on Sir John A and Canadian historic events.  If you are lucky enough to be on one of these trains, prepare to be entertained!

We look forward to hearing from you about your experiences too. Please send your feedback to our Facebook or Twitter accounts or to my Twitter account at @VIARailPrez.


Ice, Santa, Poetry… and even a video for the Holidays!

January 8th 2015 by Yves Desjardins-Siciliano

For many of us this has been the after-holiday return-to-work week: getting back into the swing of things at the dawn of a promising new year. For the majority of VIA Rail’s front-line and maintenance center employees, however, the past couple of weeks was not only business as usual; it was more business than usual!  With close to 1,100 trains running from December 17 through January 4th, and almost 250,000 passengers travelling across our network, our staff was hard at work. We are extremely thankful for their dedication during this peak travel period, and the extra time and effort they took to ensure that travelling Canadians enjoyed their time off, from the moment they got on board.

Despite the weather, including the recent icy conditions in Québec and Ontario, our trains ran every day, safely getting our passengers to their destinations. For those of you who left their cars at home and opted for a relaxing train ride instead, you made a great choice. Train travel continues to be one of the most reliable means of transport when the weather takes a turn for the worse.

This holiday season was an inspiring one for many, both on and off the trains, including VIA’s very own Yannick Mackels, a Service Manager based in Montreal, who spent two months creating this video depicting how VIA Rail staff feel about working for Canada’s national passenger rail company. Career opportunities are listed on our website, for those now interested…

Watch the video!

Meanwhile, in the West, CP and VIA Rail helped celebrate the 19th year of the West Coast Express Santa Train toy donation campaign. Over the two days of the Santa Train event, more than 4,200 toys were donated. Congratulations to all involved in this worthwhile cause.

On our social media accounts, people celebrated by sending us messages of merriment and pictures of loved ones enjoying their train rides. One woman even regaled her followers with a poem on Twitter, sent out one line at a time on Christmas Eve, right from her train seat.

Finally, we were excited to get into the spirit ourselves through our many contests and give-aways. People won some amazing prizes, like an unlimited semester pass for students and train travel credits ranging from $250 – $1,500.

Thanks for sharing in the festivities with us and Happy New Year from everyone at VIA!