Employee Profile: Jean-Pierre Couturre
Transportation Dangerous Goods Specialist
Coming of age in Montréal in the 1970s was a trip. Life was party. And Jean Pierre (JP) Couture was the man behind many of those parties.
A grocery wrapper by day, Couture worked nights spinning tunes at Montréal’s world-famous nightclubs through the disco era.
“I’m a terrible dancer, but I like to make people dance,” JP says of his DJ days. “And in those days, it was total abandon. Do something excellent, and people would go wild.”
By 1978, JP was looking to start a career. So, when a grocery co-worker mentioned he was applying at CN, JP joined him. And he never looked back.
JP started as a coach cleaner, but moved on quickly to doing mechanical inspections and repairs to cars and later to building and refurbishing.
Within seven years, he had risen to the rank of general supervisor of a shop and yard operation. In that role, he oversaw the work of 225 employees.
“I like to lead. But many couldn’t believe I was a general supervisor so young. I had to show some people my license so I could validate my age.”
By the end of the mid-80s, JP was ready for yet another new challenge. So, he moved into the dangerous goods area that would become the focus of a long career and prompt a secondment to the Railway Association of Canada in October 2000.
“It has been the best career move. I almost don’t see it as a job. I truly, truly enjoy it.”
The element that JP loves is the camaraderie of going into the field, working with members, first responders, regulatory agencies, and others and providing transportation of dangerous goods (TDG) training to members and Emergency Response training to first responders.
“When I was in school, I hated it. Today, I’m doing the training at the front of the class.”
He is also always on-call for events like the Lac Mégantic disaster, which kept him working for nearly three weeks straight. And that has meant time away from Sylvie, his wife of 32 years, their two daughters and granddaughters.
“I take pride in what I do. And I love to be at home.”
That’s especially true since the “bad luck years” of the mid-1990s when Sylvie battled three back-to-back cancer scares.
While she has been in remission since 1996, JP says that experience has reminded him and his family that “if you have your health, any problem can be worked out.”
“You can’t take anything for granted. So, enjoy life to the fullest.”
For moments of fun and togetherness in the pool or kitchen of the family home in Deux-Montagnes, QC, there is always music – everything from Shania to Madonna, Lady Gaga to David Foster.
“We have a good sound system,” JP confides. And, yes, he still loves to make people dance.