featured Poverty

The man who drove over Wray Hart

KJIPUKTUK (Halifax) – Let’s look at two lives; let’s look at Wray Hart, aged 62, and Dennis Patterson, 23, the man who allegedly killed him.

Patterson allegedly struck Hart in the early hours of Saturday morning near the Sobey’s store on Queen Street in south-end Halifax. Patterson was charged with drunk driving causing death.

Photo CBC

We read that Hart went out to look for some returnable bottles so he could buy some cigarettes for a friend. Patterson was likely wrapping up a night of drinking and partying when he got into his car and drove. Hart was on the sidewalk when he was struck.

Hart collected bottles and cans to earn what must have been a meager living. I saw him every couple of days, wheeling a shopping cart loaded with blue bags stuffed with recyclables. We used to smile at one another and sometimes I’d hand him a bag of empty bottles. On sunny summer mornings I used to see Hart sitting on the low stone wall at the old library, quietly asking for change from passers-by.

What do we know of the man driving the car, Dennis Patterson of Quispamsis, NB? We read he is an MBA student at Saint Mary’s University, where I taught in the same business school for 17 years. I often taught MBA students. Most were full of privilege, intent on making lots of money, and short on life experience.

The 2011 Census shows that Quispamsis has a population of 17,656. The median family income is $101,90734% higher than $76,000 which is the median family income for all Canadians.

There are 170 “Blacks”, and 585 “North American Aboriginals” according to the 2011 Census.

Immigrants make up only 5.6% of the town’s population, compared with 20.6% in Canada as a whole. More than half of Quispamsis’ 995 immigrants are from the US and the UK—that means they are probably white. There are also 50 Chinese and 190 from South Korean immigrants but not one from India or any country in Africa.

More than 3650 people in Quispamsis have at least a bachelor’s or undergraduate degree or diploma; another 1035 have completed apprenticeships and are employed in their trades. Nearly 5,000 have taken courses in business, management, architecture or engineering.

In Quispamsis, 5705 of the 6175 homes are owned, only 465 are rented. Half of the homes have 8 rooms or more in them.

We know that Wray Hart had recently had moved to an apartment with his own fridge and a radio. Those who knew him said Hart was the “kindest man you’d ever meet,” others said he was “the hardest working man in Halifax”. Lorraine Glendenning, who was a friend said, “he told me he had arranged his bed so he could look out the window at the stars when he was listening to the radio at night.”

What do we make of Dennis Patterson’s background? The Census statistics tell the story of Quispamsis – a white, professional, and solidly middle class suburb of St John. A possible parallel to Patterson’s accident takes place in the 1985 bestselling novel Bonfire of the Vanities. Author Tom Wolfe called the book’s hero, Sherman McCoy, a “master of the universe” because he was a Wall Street financier or trader, rich and powerful. McCoy was out on the town with his mistress Maria, who was driving his car, when she struck a black teenager. McCoy was charged with the hit and run accident which left the teen in a coma. Maria lied to police and said McCoy was driving. McCoy’s life spun out of control — he lost his job, his home and his family. In the end, someone quotes the Bible, “What does it profit a man to gain the whole world, but lose his own soul?”

Let’s hope it’s not too late for Dennis Patterson. He’s got to think about his own privilege and the fact that he, like others in his MBA cohort, are supposed to make ethical and socially sustainable decisions and understand “the role that ethical and socially-sustainable factors play while studying for his MBA. Maybe now he needs to question his own privilege and consider why he ever believed it was OK to drive while under the influence.

Judy Haiven is a retired professor of Industrial Relations at Saint Mary’s University

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  1. ? Why so many referrals to Quispamsis NB don’t think it’s relavent where he came from or how many people lived there would that have stopped him from driving drunk if he came from somewhere else I think the point is a man is dead because of his actions doesn’t matter if Wray collected bottles or had his MBA he was killed by a drunk driver

    1. I meant to type this out before I hit send, but results from that study also show that rich kids also are more likely to drive drunk. So it’s a huge problem all around.

  2. A correlation exists between socioeconomic status and incidence of drunk driving, according to this 2011 paper: https://academic.oup.com/alcalc/article/46/6/721/129644

    “A high income entailed a high risk of drunken driving for young persons.” – rich kids drive drunk

    “Social differences obviously remain a big problem in the phenomena of drunken driving. They arise from more prevalent alcohol abuse among less educated, poorer people and those living alone.” – poor people drive drunk

    “As socio-economic differences in drunken driving can already be found in the age group of 15–24 year-old persons, and alcohol-induced disorders are persistent among them, early intervention is of utmost importance for young drunk drivers.” – the issue we need to solve

  3. These comments are interesting. Of course first of all, Wray Hart had no car. That means he did not have the privilege of owning a car. He had to walk everywhere, and we saw him out and about collecting cans and bottles and hauling them to the recycling depot in a shopping cart. It seems he probably did NOT spent his night drinking with friends– which no doubt Patterson did. Patterson’s friends , likely also University students, never bothered to stop him from driving — after the night of partying. That’s privilege or free pass; no one expected he’d be stopped in a police check, let alone run someone down. And, from the police and others who often warn us that “good” people or decent people do NOT wander the streets after midnight– rather that “good” people are supposed to be at home in bed. That’s also privilege.

    Wray Hart’s death was not an accident. It was a murder– not an intentional murder but a murder nonetheless.

  4. Wray was prob the closes thing to an actual father figure I had.

    He remembered everyone regardless of we’re they came from or we’re going.

    He had an almost sage like persona to him and an attitude that conveyed great strength.

    Use to Liston to endless story’s from him some that offered insight well others just pointless yet funny regardless it removed u from the apathy one Could encounter on a busy 2 am street corner.

    Was he perfect no but he was a friend to me I only wish I could have told him that sooner.

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