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

Ontario franchise under fire for offering free buffet to Canadian citizens

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

Kierra Smith (Contributed)
Kelowna swimmer headed to Toronto hoping to qualify for Olympics

If she qualifies, it will be Kierra Smith’s second time swimming at the Olympics

Kelowna flags were flown at half-mast after the discovery of a residential school burial site in Kamloops. (File photo)
Central Okanagan school board chair reflects on recent tragedies

Moyra Baxter offers condolenses to residential school victims, slain Muslim family

Watson Road Elementary school in Kelowna (Google Maps/Contributed).
COVID-19 case at Watson Road Elementary

School District 23 confirmed someone at the school tested positive on Saturday

The Great Ogopogo Bathtub Race has been held in Summerland as a fundraising event. Do you know which Canadian city introduced this sport? (Black Press file photo)
QUIZ: A summer’s day at the water

How much do you know about boats, lakes and water?

The RCMP presence in Central Okanagan public schools is being reviewed by the board of education. (File photo)
RCMP presence welcomed in Central Okanagan public schools

Staff survey feedback overwhelmingly positive from students, staff and parents

Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau participates in a plenary session at the G7 Summit in Carbis Bay, England on Friday June 11, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld
Canada donating 13M surplus COVID-19 vaccine doses to poor countries

Trudeau says the government will pay for 87 million shots to be distributed to poor countries

Jane Linden
KCR: Volunteering keeps you active

Kelowna Community Resources shares stories of its volunteers in a weekly column

Indigenous Services Minister Marc Miller is seen during a news conference, Wednesday May 19, 2021 in Ottawa. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld
Indigenous child-welfare battle heads to court despite calls for Ottawa to drop cases

Feds are poised to argue against two Canadian Human Rights Tribunal rulings

Two-year-old Ivy McLeod laughs while playing with Lucky the puppy outside their Chilliwack home on Thursday, June 10, 2021. (Jenna Hauck/ Chilliwack Progress)
VIDEO: B.C. family finds ‘perfect’ puppy with limb difference for 2-year-old Ivy

Ivy has special bond with Lucky the puppy who was also born with limb difference

Cannabis bought in British Columbia (Ashley Wadhwani/Black Press Media)
Is it time to start thinking about greener ways to package cannabis?

Packaging suppliers are still figuring eco-friendly and affordable packaging options that fit the mandates of Cannabis Regulations

A million-dollar ticket was sold to an individual in Vernon from the Lotto Max draw Friday, June 11, 2021. (Photo courtesy of BCLC)
Lottery ticket worth $1 million sold in Vernon

One lucky individual holds one of 20 tickets worth $1 million from Friday’s Lotto Max draw

“65 years, I’ve carried the stories in my mind and live it every day,” says Jack Kruger. (Athena Bonneau)
‘Maybe this time they will listen’: Survivor shares stories from B.C. residential school

Jack Kruger, living in Syilx territory, wasn’t surprised by news of 215 children’s remains found on the grounds of the former Kamloops Indian Residential School

A logging truck carries its load down the Elaho Valley near in Squamish, B.C. in this file photo. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Chuck Stoody
Squamish Nation calls for old-growth logging moratorium in its territory

The nation says 44% of old-growth forests in its 6,900-square kilometre territory are protected while the rest remain at risk

Most Read