Calgary gas-and-dash death raises questions, renews calls for new law
WATCH: The senseless death of Maryam Rashidi has many calling for the province to implement pay before you pump legislation. Gary Bobrovitz reports.
CALGARY – The death of a Calgary gas station attendant—struck by a truck while apparently trying to prevent a gas-and-dash—has raised questions about the responsibilities of station employees and renewed calls for mandatory pre-payment for gas.
Centex clerk Maryam Rashidi was rushed to hospital after she was hit by a truck along 16 Avenue N.W. on Sunday, and succumbed to her injuries on Tuesday afternoon. Police say she was dragged and run over by the truck, which was allegedly involved in a gas-and-dash.
The president of the Western Convenience Stores Association says it’s the responsibility of employers to make sure employees “understand the potential hazards in their workplace and that they do not deliberately or inadvertently put themselves at extraordinary risk of harm.”
“It is illegal for employers to charge their employees for losses suffered during their shift as a result of a robbery or theft,” said Andrew Klukas in an email.
“This is to guard against employees feeling compelled to put themselves at risk over any misperceptions of monetary liability.”
Klukas said his organization posts “best practices” on www.retailsafety.ca, along with an online training program. He said the association also participated in a “drive off safety pilot program” in partnership with Crime Stoppers and the Calgary Police Service, which will be incorporated into the existing training.
The president of Centex called on the government to enforce mandatory gas pre-payment legislation in response to the hit-and-run that ultimately killed Rashidi.
“Although it is our policy and we clearly tell our employees to phone the police and not to put themselves at risk by chasing ‘gas runaways’, it’s understandable how an employee may react in the heat of the moment,” said Alnoor Bhura in a Monday statement.
“The government of Alberta has shown very little or no leadership in this matter in the past, even though they have been advised by various Chiefs of police to adopt ‘pay before pump’ legislation. We hope the new government reconsiders this issue and brings forward some much needed legislation and leadership.”
Alberta Labour Minister Lori Sigurdson said Tuesday her department is “looking into different ways that jurisdictions take care of this dashing.”
“I understand about Grant’s Law in B.C. where you pay before and we are looking into that, so I can’t make any commitments to you today but it’s absolutely a concern for us,” said Sigurdson.
Grant’s Law is named after Grant De Patie, a Maple Ridge, British Columbia gas station attendant who was dragged to his death in 2005 after trying to stop someone from stealing $12 worth of gasoline.
The law requires customers to pay before they pump, and was crafted for overnight workers at gas stations and retail stores. It also requires attendants to work in pairs or have a locked door for protection.
De Patie’s father, Doug, said his prayers are with the Rashidi family, and called for stricter safety policies.
“Our family members are being slaughtered on the altar of convenience,” he told Global News on Wednesday. “These stores and gas stations should be implementing policies that protect workers – eliminating hazards before those workers’ shifts, training and orientating them, some of those other regulations that came in with Grant’s Law that would address some of these issues for these working alone workers, and gas station workers.
“They’re vulnerable. They’re sitting ducks.”
B.C. Minister of Labour Shirley Bond said Grant’s Law was introduced in 2008 because of the “unique safety challenges” faced by some workers.
“We worked closely with Grant’s family and WorkSafeBC to make Grant’s Law the first mandatory gas pre-payment regulation in Canada,” said Bond in an emailed statement. “To date, Grant’s Law has significantly reduced gas and dash thefts in B.C. In fact, there have been only two gas and dash incidents in last six years.”
Calgary Police Inspector Ken Thrower said Monday the agency supports a gas pre-payment law, because of safety concerns such as this incident.
“Anything that can reduce something like this happening or anything like that, because it’s not about dollars and cents, it’s about lives and safety,” said Thrower. “Definitely any initiative along those lines, we’re going to support as a police agency.”
The Canadian Fuels Association said its members have “robust safety and security policies in place at their members’ sites” and have tried to encourage the adoption of its best practices with independent retailers, such as Centex.
“With respect to mandatory pre-payment for all retail fuel purchases, Canadian Fuels members already institute voluntary pre-payment provisions on a risk management basis,” said western division vice president S. Brian Ahearn in a statement on Monady. “Imposing mandatory pre-payment across the diverse range of retail fuel sites circumstances may be problematic, and industry believes that a thorough risk assessment at each site coupled with safety and security plans are the best way to make retail sites safe.”
With files from Gary Bobrovitz, Ryan Rumbolt and Carolyn Kury de Castillo
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