A Toronto Chinese restaurant is receiving backlash after what it appears to be targeting its Black customers by asking them to pre-pay for their meals. The restaurant now has to pay 10,000 Canadian dollars due to ruling from a 2014 incident according to Blavity.
Emile Wickham a Black man from Trinidad and Tobago went to Hong Shing a Toronto restaurant with friends to celebrate his birthday in May of 2014. Wickham at the time was living in Toronto attending York University.
After placing their orders, a waiter at their table asked them to pay for their meals which Wickham and his friends did.
In a ruling by the Human Rights Tribunal of Ontario, Wickham’s testimony states that his group complied with pre-paying for their meals even though they didn’t feel comfortable doing it. After paying, Wickham asked other customers in the restaurant, who were not Black, if they were asked to pre-pay for their meals. Several of those people that they asked said they weren’t asked to.
Learning this, Wickham went back to the server, according to the testimony, and asked why his group was asked to pre-pay. He says the server didn’t give them a reason but offered to refund them.
“The applicant said that it was evident that the waiter simply wanted to end the conversation as quickly as possible, and was being very defensive,” explained the ruling.
This incident led Wickham to file a report with the Human Rights Tribunal of Ontario against the restaurant for racial discrimination.
In its defense, the restaurant stated in the ruling that they have customers who “dine and dash.”
“Because of its location, the restaurant attracts something of a transient crowd, and unfortunately it was very common in the past that customers ‘dine and dash’ – that is, eat their meals, and leave the restaurant without paying,” according to the ruling. It continues, “There was never any intent to discriminate against the applicant; all customers who are not known to be regulars are treated the same way.”
Esi Codjoe, the vice chair of the Human Rights Tribunal of Ontario ruled that the restaurant use racial discrimination against Wickham based off of “race, colour, and ethnic origin.”
The restaurant had to pay Wickham 10,000 Canadian dollars ($7,805.49) and was ordered to place a Human Rights Commission Code sign in a noticeable place in their restaurant.
Codje wrote in the ruling that the restaurant assumed that Wickham was a thief without evidence to support the assumption.
“His mere presence as a Black man in a restaurant was presumed to be sufficient evidence of his presumed propensity to engage in criminal behavior,” wrote Codje. “At its core, racial profiling is a form of shorthand that enables the perpetrator of the behavior to assume certain facts, and ignore others.”
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