Ontario franchise under fire for offering free buffet to Canadian citizens

Diners with a Canadian passport, birth certificate or citizenship card will receive their buffet meal free of charge

A Chinese-Canadian buffet chain in Ontario celebrating its 40th anniversary plans to give out free meals to Canadian citizens on the nation’s birthday, but some view the offer as potentially discriminatory against those who can’t produce proof of citizenship.

“It seems a case of putting dim sum before dignity,” said Ted Flett, an employment and human rights lawyer with Toronto-based Zubas + Associates.

“And, I think the Mandarin is opening themselves up to quite a bit of liability with this sort of a move.”

Diners with a Canadian passport, birth certificate or citizenship card will receive their buffet meal free of charge on a first-come, first-serve basis on July 1 between 12 p.m. and 8:30 p.m., the Mandarin Restaurant Franchise Corp. announced earlier this week. The company operates 29 restaurants in Ontario.

Some social media users did not take kindly to the citizenship requirement, alleging the practice is discriminatory. Others celebrated the offer and defended the Mandarin’s restriction. Some even recalled redeeming the offer years ago.

This is the fifth year Mandarin has offered the free buffet linked to citizenship, wrote James Chiu, president and co-founder, in an email. Previously, diners redeemed the freebie in 1996, 2004, 2009 and 2014.

Chiu did not directly address a question about whether the company has any concerns that the promotion may discriminate against people who are not Canadian citizens, but sent a statement and details on the offer in response.

“This event is one of the ways for us to show our appreciation for Canada,” he said. “Canada welcomed us into the country 40 years ago and has supported us ever since.”

Flett said he’s surprised this promotion has been offered four previous times as it sounds like a benefit to an exclusive group of customers, which appears to violate section one of the Ontario Human Rights Code. That section protects people from discrimination based on ethnic origin, citizenship and other factors in receiving services.

ALSO READ: Edmonton woman’s girls denied citizenship under old law

If Flett or a hypothetical client of his were refused the promotion because they were unable to produce proof of Canadian citizenship, he said he’d seek damages for the value of the offer, as well as damages for injury, hurt feelings and loss of dignity.

Flett is not convinced someone would have to be denied the freebie in order to pursue the matter as just communicating such a promotion may be discriminatory.

The province’s human rights code protects people from discrimination due to citizenship in five social areas, including housing, employment and services, such as at restaurants. That comes with some exceptions under the law. For example, only Canadian citizens can vote in municipal or provincial elections, wrote Yves Massicotte, a spokesman for the Ontario Human Rights Commission.

“Defences under the Code are interpreted narrowly,” he wrote. “In these circumstances, the restaurant would have to establish that its promotion is a cultural activity designed to foster and develop participation in that activity by Canadian citizens only.”

People who feel they are being discriminated against due to their citizenship can make a claim with the Human Right Tribunal of Ontario or contact the Human Rights Legal Support Centre, he said.

Flett said it’s possible the Mandarin has never had a claim made against it regarding this particular promotion and is unaware it could be discriminatory.

It’s also possible, he said, that because the restaurant is still providing service to people who are not Canadian citizens, but requiring they pay that day, it believes the practice is not discriminatory.

The Canadian Press

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Just Posted

Holiday season popular time for mail theft

Be cautious with mail and Amazon packages

Council supports cost of living increase

Rimbey’s interim budget shows slight increase

Academic excellence achieved

Rimbey high school students do well

Snow expected within the next 24 hours

Snowfall expected in Rimbey and area

Fashion Fridays: Ethical and sustainable gifts for the season

Kim XO, helps to keep you looking good on Fashion Fridays on the Black Press Media Network

Conservatives urge Morneau to deliver ‘urgent’ fall economic update

Morneau says the first thing the Liberals plan to do is bring in their promised tax cut for the middle class

Kovrig clings to humour as ‘two Michaels’ near one year in Chinese prison

Their detention is widely viewed as retaliation for Canada’s arrest of Chinese high-tech scion Meng Wanzhou

Proposed health care changes would be “devastating” to rural family practice: president of AMA

AHS, AMA and MLA Ron Orr chime in on recent health care announcements

Man accused in toddler son’s death inept parent, not murderer: defence

Toddler’s body was found outside Good Shepherd Anglican Church in April 2017

Job numbers disappointing, but oil and gas growth expected in 2020: Kenney

Unemployment rate in Alberta rose to 7.2 per cent from 6.7 per cent last month

‘Things haven’t changed enough:’ Ecole Polytechnique anniversary prompts reflection

Fourteen women were fatally shot by a gunman at the Montreal school on Dec. 6, 1989

Feds approve Alberta’s carbon tax on big industrial emitters

Tax will be applied on 10 per cent of emissions produced by the province’s biggest polluters

Appeal denied: Alberta’s top court upholds conviction of triple-murderer

Douglas Garland was convicted of first-degree murder in the deaths of a couple and their grandson

Most Read