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.

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Sylvan Lake beachgoers spark safety concerns

‘You’re putting your life at risk,’ tweets Rachel Notley

Conservatives call for Trudeau to testify at committee on WE Charity deal

Ethics Commissioner Mario Dion is already investigating whether Trudeau violated the Conflict of Interest Act

Genetic detectives begin work to trace spread of COVID-19 in Canada

The kinds of genetic technology being used for this project did not exist when SARS hit Canada in 2003

Quebec police continue search for father, one day after missing girls found dead

Bodies were found in a wooded area of Quebec City suburb

QUIZ: Are you ready for a summer road trip?

How much do you really know about roads, motor vehicles and car culture? Take this quiz to find out.

Canmore RCMP respond to multiple hiking injury calls this weekend

EMS and RCMP responded to three separate and unrelated hiking accidents in Kananaskis Country.

How Conservative leadership hopefuls would address the WE scandal if they win

The ethics commissioner has been called in to see if Trudeau broke conflict-of-interest law

With debt, deficit numbers out, experts say Liberals need plan for growth

Borrowing will push the federal debt past $1 trillion by the end of the fiscal year

Pedestrian-only downtown a hit with residents as St. John’s adapts to pandemic

‘The city really got this right this time. We’re very happy’

Bosnian-Canadians mark 25th anniversary of Srebrenica massacre

‘It’s sad for a child to think that it’s normal, actually, to … have family members killed’

PODCAST: COVID-19 and the US Election

The Expert welcomes Burman University Political Scientist Marc Froese

Sylvan Lake RCMP continue search for missing man

43-year-old Steven Hull’s last known whereabouts were in the Sylvan Lake area on May 28

Most Read