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

WATCH: Our Place Therapeutic Recovery Community turns into a ‘place of healing’

500 volunteers, 120 businesses worked to transform View Royal community

A party for 11 pups and their adoptive families in Beckwith Park in Saanich

The coonhound siblings reunited at a barbeque on Saturday

HarbourCats bats hot in home return

Victoria squad downs Yakima Valley Pippins 17-2

Victoria veteran receives French Legion of Honour, becoming knight of France

Ted Vaughan was a pilot in the 408 “Goose” Squadron in WW2

Witness the passion and fire of flamenco in Victoria this July

Seventh annual Victoria Flamenco Festival features free and ticketed performances downtown

Rich the Vegan scoots across Canada for the animals

Rich Adams is riding his push scooter across Canada to bring awareness to the dog meat trade in Asia

Canadian high school science courses behind on climate change, says UBC study

Researchers found performance on key areas varies by province and territory

Six inducted into BC Hockey Hall of Fame

The 26th ceremony in Penticton welcomed powerful figures both from on and off the ice

RCMP investigate two shootings in the Lower Mainland

Incidents happened in Surrey, with a victim being treated at Langley Memorial Hospital

CRA program to help poor file taxes yields noticeable bump in people helped

Extra money allows volunteer-driven clinics to operate year-round

Recall: Certain Pacific oysters may pose threat of paralytic shellfish poisoning

Consumers urged to either return affected packages or throw them out

How a Kamloops-born man helped put us on the moon

Jim Chamberlin did troubleshooting for the Apollo program, which led to its success

Sexual harassment complaints soaring amid ‘frat boy culture’ in Canada’s airline industry

‘It’s a #MeToo dumpster fire…and it’s exhausting for survivors’

Most Read