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Toronto restaurant fined for racial profiling

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Toronto restaurant fined for racial profiling

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A popular Toronto restaurant has been fined $10,000 for a case of racial profiling that was deemed a violation of Ontario's human rights code.

The Human Rights Tribunal of Ontario ordered Hong Shing Chinese Restaurant in Toronto's Chinatown to pay the sum after Emile Wickham, 31, a black man who was asked to prepay for his dinner, filed a complaint alleging racial discrimination.

Hong Shing was ordered to pay $10,000 for requiring a black customer and his friends to prepay for their meals.
Hong Shing was ordered to pay $10,000 for requiring a black customer and his friends to prepay for their meals. Google Maps

Wickham and his three friends, who are also black, went to Hong Shing in May 2014 to celebrate a birthday, Toronto's Globe and Mail first reported. Their waiter told them that it was restaurant policy to pay for the food prior to receiving it. Wickham questioned other customers about whether they had to prepay too, and found that nobody but him and his three friends had been asked to prepay. The report from the tribunal, issued April 18, confirms that they were the only black people in the restaurant.

No employee or representative attended the tribunal hearing, but the report says the restaurant sent over a statement that said the restaurant "attracts something of a transient crowd" and anticipates that diners will walk out on their checks often. The restaurant said in the statement that asking customers to prepay was a way to ensure that customers whom restaurant employees did not immediately recognize paid for their food.

But the report filed by Esi Codjoe, vice chairwoman of the tribunal, states that one of Wickham's friends said he had been to the restaurant at least 15 times since he was 19 years old. At the time of the meal, Wickham and his friends were students at York University.

Hong Shing declined to comment when NBC News reached out for more information, but The Globe and Mail reported that the employees in the restaurant "were unfamiliar with the incident and said ownership had changed since it occurred."

Codjoe said the restaurant treated Wickham like "a potential thief in waiting" and violated a code that ensures equal treatment for all when seeking any services. "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," she wrote.

Codjoe reported that Wickham "was not used to being treated like a second-class citizen because of his race, and was not accustomed to having negative behavior being attributed to him given his skin color." She added that "he and his friends felt a sense of hopelessness after they left the restaurant as there was little they could do about the incident."

Wickham said on his personal Twitter account that he was "more grateful that we were heard and believed" than happy about the decision.