A Chinese restaurant in Toronto is under fire for asking and seemingly targeting black customers to pre-pay for their meals. The restaurant was recently ordered to pay 10,000 Canadian dollars in a ruling regarding a troubling incident that occurred in 2014.
Emile Wickham, a black man from Trinidad and Tobago, visited Hong Shing restaurant in Toronto in May 2014 to celebrate his birthday with a group of friends, Newsweek reported. Wickham, who had been living in Toronto and attending York University then, said a server asked his group to pay in advance for their meals shortly after placing their orders.
According to the ruling by the Human Rights Tribunal of Ontario, Wickham said in his testimony that although the group obliged and pre-paid for their meals, they did not feel comfortable doing so. Shortly after the group pre-paid, Wickham then asked other patrons at the restaurant whether they were also asked to pre-pay. He and his friends all testified that the other patrons said they were not asked to pre-pay and that there were no other black patrons at the restaurant at that time. After learning his group were the only patrons asked to pre-pay, Wickham said he asked the server why they were singled out. The server reportedly did not offer an explanation but offered to issue the group a refund instead.
being asked if I'm happy about decision, tbh no, more grateful that we were heard and believed. I would trade of this for the two hours of bonding taken away from us that night
— Emile Wickham (@emile_wickham) April 30, 2018
"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," the ruling read.
In May 2015 Wickham filed a complaint with the Human Rights Tribunal of Ontario against Hong Shing for racial discrimination.
Toronto restaurant ordered to pay $10,000 after asking black customers to prepay for their meal https://t.co/41A7hcCiPu
— The Globe and Mail (@globeandmail) April 29, 2018
According to the ruling, the restaurant issued a response saying it's common for customers to "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," the ruling read. It later continued, "There was never any intent to discriminate against the applicant; all customers who are not know [sic] to be regulars are treated the same way."
The case's adjudicator, vice chair of Human Rights Tribunal of Ontario Esi Codjoe, ruled that the restaurant did subject Wickham to discrimination based on "race, colour and ethnic origin." In addition to paying Wickham 10,000 Canadian dollars, Hong Shing was ordered to place an Ontario Human Rights Commission Code sign in a prominent place inside the restaurant.
"In essence, the applicant was presumed to be a potential thief in waiting despite any evidence to that effect," Codjoe wrote in part. "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. At its core racial profiling is a form of short hand that enables the perpetrator of the behaviour to assume certain facts, and ignore others."