The Ontario Human Rights Tribunal has ordered a Toronto restaurant to pay a black customer 10,000 Canadian dollars for racially discriminating against him and his friends.
Emile Wickham was celebrating his 28th birthday with three friends when the group decided to grab a bite on May 3, 2014 at Hong Shing Chinese Restaurant.
The four were the only black patrons in the restaurant, Wickham said, and they were stunned when the waiter demanded they pay before they were served.
When the group complained, they were told it was policy, according to their testimony.
“I still felt skeptical, so then I approached other tables,” Wickham told CNN.
No one else he spoke with had been asked to prepay, he said.
“There was frustration initially,” he said. “And, that frustration turned into a feeling of dejection and sadness.”
The restaurant’s response
Nearly a year after the incident, Wickham, who is originally from Trinidad and Tobago, could not stop thinking about what happened.
As the anniversary approached, he filed a complaint with the Human Rights Tribunal.
The restaurant said it had seen an influx of dine-and-dash incidents and it asked customers who weren’t “regulars” to prepay, according to the ruling.
But, adjudicator Esi Codjoe said she found no evidence such a policy was real. Earlier last month, she ruled the restaurant had racially profiled the students.
It says it will appeal
In a statement shared with CNN, Hong Shing Chinese Restaurant expressed deep concern over the situation and highlighted management has since changed.
“There are a number of sensitivities and considerations about this situation and, for that reason, the tribunal outcome is under appeal by legal representatives,” it said. “At this time, we cannot comment further, beyond emphasizing that the current owner and staff are dedicated to be a committed, inclusive and responsible member of the community.”
Wickham said he will continue to fight his case if needed.
“It happens in our daily life, work life, social activity,” he said. “The average Canadian never calls themselves racist but, if a significant part of the population have legitimate stories of being discriminated against, this has to be seen beyond the scope of a restaurant claim.”