Gas station law doubtful

But local tragedy prompted tighter restrictions on security

Last September, Jayesh Prajapati would have been heading to work, unaware that in a year’s time there would be a proposed bill in the provincial legislature named for him.

He would have been unaware that something he was about to do would spark talks about systemic change at gas stations across the province and increased safety for employees of those stations.

But he would also have been unaware that, by the end of his shift, his wife would be a widow and his son fatherless.

On Sept. 15, 2012, the 44-year-old attendant at the Shell gas station on the northwest corner of Marlee and Roselawn avenues spotted a man attempting to leave without paying for a fill-up — a theft commonly referred to as “gas and dash”.

Prajapati was struck and killed as the fleeing thief sped off.

Shortly after the incident, local MPP Mike Colle drafted Bill 12. Known as Jayesh’s Law: Worker Safety at Service Stations, it aimed to improve the safety and rights of gas station attendants. Ensuring that Ontario gas attendants are not on the hook for the cost of stolen gas is one of the bill’s main points.

It remains unknown why Prajapati tried to stop the fleeing vehicle on his own, but Colle says the incident brought the issue of gas attendant safety into focus.

“We’ve had a blitz by the Ministry of Labour at all these gas stations, telling them that if you tell the gas station attendant they have to pay out of their pocket for gas thefts, you will be subject to serious fines and labour code violations,” he said. “The Ministry of Labour people went out to every gas station and really read them the riot act.”

Colle said the gas companies are onboard with the idea.

Bill 12 passed second reading in February, but Colle now doubts it will ever become law. With the government in minority status, he said recently, the only thing that has passed has been the budget.

“There’s hardly been any laws passed in three years,” he said. “It’s a total gridlock.”

That doesn’t mean changes won’t take place, however. Some items outlined in the bill have already started to become a reality.

“It takes times,” Colle said. “It takes a lot of public awareness to make these changes, and sometimes the changes will occur without the actual law being passed, because the law brings our attention to the issue.”

Colle hopes to see gas pumps switched to a pay-before-pumping system, something that has already been instituted at the station where Prajapati was killed.

“They can do that without the law being passed,” he said.

Gas station companies have also begun to improve lighting, and are putting up security cameras.

Colle has remained in contact with the Prajapati family.

“He left behind a widow, who is basically poverty stricken, and an 11-year-old son without a father,” he said. “They have very limited income — he was the only bread winner in the family.

“How do you replace a father?”

Days after Prajapati’s death police identified a suspect: Max Edwin Tutiven, who is now 40. A Canada-wide warrant was issued for his arrest, but he has yet to be caught.

About this article:

By: Shawn Star
Posted: Sep 14 2013 4:26 pm
Filed in: NEWS
Edition: Toronto