Downtown restaurant ordered to pay $10K after black man was asked to 'pre-pay' for food

A Chinese restaurant in downtown Toronto has been ordered to pay a black man $10,000 by Ontario’s human rights tribunal after he and his friends were asked to “pre-pay” for their meals.
Back on May 3, 2014, Emile Wickham and his three friends attended Hong Shing Chinese Restaurant, located in the area of Dundas Street West and University Avenue, to celebrate his birthday.
Wickham said he is from Trinidad and Tobago and the friends he was with at the time are also black.
After the four men ordered their food, Wickham told the tribunal, they were asked to pay for their meals prior to receiving them -- which they did.
Wickham said he felt uneasy about the request and asked other customers inside the restaurant if they were asked to do the same. However, Wickham told the tribunal that none of the customers he spoke to said they were asked to pay in advance.
In an interview with CP24 on Monday, Wickham said he knew after leaving the restaurant that day, that somebody had to be held accountable.
“I would give all of this back to just spend two hours with my friends just bonding for my birthday,” he said. “I think that was the real cost for me that the experience was taken away from me and I can’t put into words – I can’t describe the walk back to the car – to walk away from that restaurant essentially being denied our dignity.”
After leaving the restaurant, Wickham contacted the tribunal and was setup with lawyer Roger Love.
Speaking with CP24 on Monday alongside Wickham, Love said communities need to take an “inter-sectional approach” while recognizing the importance of race.
“We need to engage. Communities do need to engage,” he said. “We need to have frank discussions about racism, whether that’s over Facebook, Twitter or more importantly in person.”
“When something does happen, reach out and find out what your options are.”
The restaurant in question was ordered to pay Wickham $10,000 as compensation for infringing on his human rights and for injury to his feelings, self-respect and dignity. The tribunal said the restaurant did not offer a credible non-discriminatory reason for what occurred, and found that Wickham was racially profiled by employees.
The tribunal added that evidence from Wickham proved that the incident had a lasting and profound impact on him.
“It has fundamentally changed the way he perceives Toronto, and the level of the city’s inclusiveness,” the ruling said. “The incident was a rude awakening.”
In a statement posted to Instagram, Hong Shing Chinese Restaurant said the establishment was under different management at the time of the incident. The restaurant said the tribunal decision is under appeal.
“We are deeply concerned about the situation and the people affected,” owner and manager Colin Li said in the statement. “There are a number of sensitivities and considerations about this situation, and for that reason, the tribunal outcome is under appeal by legal representatives.”
“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 “really listening” can address this kind of problems going forward.
“I think it starts with listening and I think the non-black and non-indigenous communities in Canada need to really take a step back and listen to stories,” he said. “I know it can be really hard to be like ‘what you did really hurt me and I think you did it because of the colour of my skin.’ Understand that the courage it took for us to call you out on something and probably the next time this happens take a step back and really listen.”

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