Arab Montrealers claim racial discrimination after being kicked out of Tim Hortons
Three Montrealers of Arab descent claim they and four others were kicked out of a Tim Hortons in the borough of St. Laurent and they suspect it had to do with their ethnicity.
The three men, a 40-year-old IT specialist and two engineering students in their 30s, said it happened during the late morning of October 31. They do not wish to be identified for fear of reprisals and to avoid an impact on their families, work and studies.
The IT project manager said he was having a coffee and checking his emails as he's done for the past year when after half an hour, he claimed the owner brusquely told him to get out without providing an explanation. The students said they received similar treatment and the three men saw the owner boot out four others of Arab descent, including a couple - a man and a woman wearing a veil. The men said clients who were not "Arab-looking" were not asked to leave and remained in the fast food outlet.
Police were called in after the three men and another man refused to leave. The complainants said police told them they couldn't do anything because it wasn't a criminal matter and the owner told them that it was his establishment and it was up to him to decide who stays and who goes.
"I'm shocked," said the IT specialist, who doesn't know the students, who do know each other. They also don't know the four other strangers who they say were similarly evicted.
"Why seven people who look like Arabs need to leave the restaurant? Why? And other people stay in the restaurant?"
The three men said it was a humiliating and frustrating incident.
"Some people (at the restaurant) looked shocked but others, I don't know what they think: I'm a criminal, I'm a robber, I'm a terrorist, I don't know. This is humiliation," said the IT project manager.
He said he believes it partly had to do with the (U.S. president-elect) Donald Trump effect.
"Honestly, I think (so). Because Trump's speech is an influence for a lot of people."
CRARR, the Centre for Research Action on Race Relations, is helping the men take the case before the Quebec Human Rights Commission on the grounds of race and ethnicity.
"We think it's very, very strange and we think it sounds like a case of what is called in the U.S. consumer racial profiling," said executive director Fo Niemi.
"It's quite serious especially when it takes place in an area with a high concentration of residents from the Middle East which is Ville St. Laurent, especially in an outlet called Tim Hortons. When you look at Tim Hortons in the city, it's a gathering place for a lot of people of all diverse backgrounds."
The IT specialist has been in Montreal since 2000 and the students have been here about three to four years.They said they'd been to that Tim Hortons many times and have not had a problem and they've never experienced anything like this in the city.
The owner of the donut franchise is on vacation and could not reached for comment. Tim Hortons and Montreal police have not yet responded to requests for comment from CJAD 800 News.