A Chinese restaurant in Toronto has been ordered to pay a Black man $10,000 for a human rights violation after it asked him and three other Black customers with him to prepay for their meals, The Globe and Mail reports.
Emile Wickham went to the Hong Shing Chinese Restaurant for a birthday dinner with his friends in May 2014. During an April tribunal hearing, Wickham testified that after the server took the group’s order, they were asked to prepay for the food, citing that it was the restaurant’s policy.
Wickham, who noticed that he and his friends were the only Black people at the restaurant, said he asked other patrons if they had paid before receiving their meals and was told no. After further questioning the server, the group discovered that they were the only ones asked to prepay, according to The Globe and Mail.
Esi Codjoe, who arbitrated the hearing, said that restaurant staff treated Wickham as “a potential thief in waiting,” and that they violated Ontario’s human rights code, which guarantees equal treatment for people who use “goods, services and facilities.”
“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,”Codjoe wrote in her decision.
Wickham said the experience made him question the narrative that racism in large cities isn’t a problem because of how diverse they are.
“I feel a lot of Canadians feel like 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, they think they’re not racist,” Wickham said.
When reached by The Globe, restaurant staff said they were unaware of Wickham’s claim and that management has changed since the incident.