Restaurant Must Pay Thousands For Making Black Diner Prepay For Meal

A Canadian tribunal ruled the establishment unfairly discriminated against the customer and his friends, ordering the restaurant to pay $10,000 for doing so.

A Canadian court has ordered a restaurant to pay 10,000 Canadian dollars (or about $7,800) to a customer because they were in violation of his civil rights when they required him to prepay for a meal because he was black.

Emile Wickham entered Hong Shing Chinese Restaurant with his friends in 2014. When they sat down and made their order, they were told that a policy of the restaurant was for customers to pay for their meals before they received them.

Confused, Wickham and his friends did as they were requested and paid in advance for their meals. But noticing they were the only black individuals in the restaurant, the group decided to ask other customers nearby whether they had to prepay as well.

They did not.

Wickman and his group of friends confronted their server, who admitted to them that they were the only customers in the restaurant forced to prepay for their meals. Wickman and his group were offered a refund, which they took, leaving the restaurant immediately after.

Wickman filed a grievance with the Ontario Human Rights Tribunal, which ruled this week that his civil rights were violated because of the unfair policy.

“His mere presence as a Black man in a restaurant was presumed to be sufficient evidence of his presumed propensity to engage in criminal behaviour,” adjudicator Esi Codjoe concluded.

Hong Shing tried to explain that their policy was targeted toward customers they didn’t recognize, writing that their establishment attracts a “transient crowd.” Since they didn’t see Wickham as a regular, they argued, they applied the policy to him and his friends.

Codjoe rejected that argument, citing that no evidence of such a policy existed. She awarded $10,000 to Wickham to compensate him for the civil rights violation.

Wickham said the incident should serve as an eye-opener for Toronto, and Canada overall.

“I feel a lot of Canadians feel like [they’re not racist] ] because they don’t say the N-word or they have that black colleague or they like to eat Jamaican food and know about roti and doubles,” he said.

He also explained that he was unhappy with the outcome. While he was happy to be “heard and believed,” he also said, “I would trade [this decision] for the two hours of bonding taken away from us that night.”

Indeed, in 2018 there seem to be many instances of racism popping up, especially in restaurants where people of color are treated with poor service compared to white patrons.

Racism and other acts of bigotry aren’t always transparent. When they are, action needs to be taken to remedy the situation. But as Wickham points out, society’s eyes must be opened wider to take note of other instances of racism that are more subtle. Those, too, need to be addressed.

Banner/Thumbnail Credits: Hyungwon Kang/Reuters

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