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MPP introduces gas-and-dash bill in honour of attendant

A Liberal MPP has introduced a private member’s bill in Queen’s Park that could force Ontario drivers who use cash to pay for gas up front.

Mike Colle drew up the proposal after a driver hit and killed a gas station attendant, 44-year-old Jayesh Prajapati, in Toronto last weekend.

Prajapati had been trying to stop the suspect, Max Edwin Tutiven, after he filled up his tank with about $113 worth of gas and allegedly left without paying. Tutiven, 39, is wanted for second-degree murder, and police say he may be in Montreal.

Colle’s bill, which he calls Jayesh’s Law, would change the Employment Standards Act to include stricter definitions and increase fines for employers who make attendants cover the cost of thefts. It would also force the approximately 30 per cent of drivers who pay cash to start prepaying for gas and change the Highway Traffic Act so those convicted of gas theft would have their driver’s licences suspended.

“We are trying to let people know that perhaps out of this horrific death, there might be an opportunity to prevent future deaths of this kind,” Colle said at a news conference Thursday at the Ontario legislature. “So out of an awful evil, might come some good.”

Members of Prajapati’s family, including his sister, brother-in-law and 11-year-old son were also on hand for the announcement.

“Jayesh was a hardworking family man who was so proud when he became a Canadian citizen and he loved Canada,” his sister Vipa Prajapati said. “I hope that there is some good that can come out of Jayesh’s death.

“That is why my family is so happy to see this law proposed in Jayesh’s name. We hope the law will pass so that other gas station attendants do not have to lose their lives.”

A trust fund has been set up for the victim’s family.

Since July, York Region has investigated 300 gas-and-dash thefts, which officers say happen more often whenever the price of gas goes up.

The issue of gas theft also came up last year when a station attendant in Mississauga died after trying to stop a driver from leaving without paying.

In 2008, British Columbia instituted a pay-first policy and named it Grant’s Law after Grant DePatie, a man who was dragged to death while trying to stop a $12 gas-and-dash.

Prepayment is also common at gas stations in the United States.

“I think it’s well worth the inconvenience … to stop this horrendous practice that endangers people’s lives,” Colle said.

“We’re talking about two deaths in the last year and a half. We’re talking about thousands of these that occur. No prosecutions, no police action, and it’s repeated over and over again, putting people at risk.”

With files from The Canadian Press