Maryse Bétournay

Employee Profile: Maryse Bétournay
Coordinator, Operation Lifesaver Programs

What does a young woman, “terrified of speaking English,” do to get out of her comfort zone?

If you’re , you pick up, move from rural West Québec to Alberta, and try to get a job.

At 19, that’s precisely what she did.

She worked first as a housekeeper at the Banff Springs Hotel, then in the kitchen. And it was there that she found both love and heartache.

Maryse started as a dishwasher, and quickly ascended to prep cook.

She was hooked.

She discovered a love a food and cooking that stays with her today.

Much to her chagrin, she also developed a repetitive stress injury called trigger finger.

That took cooking as a career off the table.

But it led her to a job in rail. And she’s never looked back.

In 2008, Maryse moved to Ontario and in 2010 applied to be a VIA Rail station attendant.

She was hired and, after some intensive training, was given responsibility for the Kingston, Cornwall, Brockville, and Belleville stops.

In 2013, she moved back to the Ottawa area to be closer to her parents and joined the Railway Association of Canada as Senior Administrative Assistant for Operation Lifesaver.

“Our mission is super inspiring,” says Maryse, now Operation Lifesaver’s Coordinator of Programs. “We try to prevent rail crossing and trespassing incidents from happening and work to save lives across Canada.”

She describes the people with whom she interacts as “incredibly passionate” and “just amazing.” As for the work, it’s “a bit of everything…from engaging municipalities and law enforcement agencies with our rail safety programs, to developing scenarios for virtual-reality videos.”

Maryse’s time at VIA gave her the chance to travel the country – from Ottawa to Vancouver – and reflect on the engineering marvel that is Canadian rail.

“It’s a beautiful way to explore the country in total relaxation. But it’s also completely mind-blowing. Riding in a glass-domed car through the Rockies, you can’t believe that people actually built a rail line through all this rock.”

In non-COVID times, Maryse still takes frequent train trips with her partner of 6 years, Kevin. Most often it’s for weekend getaways to Montréal or Toronto.

On weekends when they’re home, you can likely find them cycling or hiking in Gatineau Park (north of Ottawa), playing with their three cats, or Maryse back in the kitchen – baking and cooking, carefully.

“It’s still complete relaxation. And, while I have a few go-to cookie recipes, I like to test my limits and try new things.”

That spirit of adventure and pushing one’s own boundaries has served her well so far…and it shows no signs of stopping anytime soon.

Find out more about other RAC Staff Members.