More than 14 years after his death inspired new rules for overnight workers in B.C., the family of Grant De Patie say more still needs to be done to prevent a similar tragedy.
De Patie was a 24-year-old gas station attendant working alone in Maple Ridge when he was dragged to death by the driver of a stolen car who was stealing $12 worth of fuel on the night of March 8, 2005.
Investigators found De Patie had been following protocol by recording the car’s licence plate number when we was struck from behind.
The driver, Darnell Pratt, was 16 years old at the time of the incident and was sentenced to seven years for manslaughter. He died this past February.
De Patie’s death inspired provincial legislation in 2008 requiring drivers to pay for their gas before fueling up.
The regulation, dubbed “Grant’s Law,” also requires late-night workers to install protective barriers or staff more than one person on overnight shifts.
But in 2012, WorkSafe B.C. amended the late-night worker rules to allow companies a “third option” to avoid installing barriers and staffing multiple workers if they put in measures including surveillance cameras, a time-lock safe and a panic button.
Workers have been protesting the move ever since, calling on the province to bring the law back to its former strength.
On Saturday, a plaque was unveiled at Garibaldi High School in De Patie’s memory while highlighting the changes brought forth by Grant’s Law.
De Patie’s father, Doug, who travelled from the family’s home in the Shuswap for the unveiling ceremony, said the plaque feels like a “resurrection” of his son.
“I feel his presence here,” he said. “He’s here right now, reminding us what we’re fighting for.
“This is a stark reminder to parents that the fighting for these kind of protections is for them, it’s for their children.”
Grant De Patie was a 24-year-old gas station attendant in Maple Ridge when he was killed during a “gas and dash” incident in March 2005.
The father said watching the “watering down” of the law inspired by his son has been “difficult” for him to accept.
“It’s what I’m trying to prevent: more incidents and deaths to workers,” he said. “I’m proud of what people and workers are doing to keep up the Grant’s Law fight.”
Those people include the B.C. Federation of Labour (BCFED), whose Young Workers Committee has been holding yearly “sit-ins” at gas stations. The latest event took place last weekend in Vancouver.
The committee’s chair, Milena Kollay, said Saturday the “third option” amendment has created too many loopholes for employers to avoid protecting its workers.
“We’re finding a lot of times, employees are supposed to [have a panic button or surveillance] but that it’s not enforced,” she said.
“No one should have to go to work and get injured.”
Kollay said the BCFED has done research that proves having two or more late-night workers together on shift prevents robberies and violence, and will continue staging sit-ins until Grant’s Law is strengthened again.
She added a recent case in Saanich where a lone hotel desk employee was robbed and detained by two masked men is a fresh reminder of the importance of late-night worker protections.
The employee in that case was eventually rescued not by a co-worker, but by a hotel guest who heard the man’s cries for help.
“I’m sure if there was another worker there at the time, that incident wouldn’t have happened,” Kollay said.
As he continues to preserve his son’s legacy, Doug De Patie is vowing his fight to get Grant’s Law back to its original form.
“Even one change, how much does that add up to if we all make one change,” he asked. “We will save lives. We’ve already saved lives.”
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