Cosmin Dzsurdzsa, True North, November 9, 2023
A Toronto theatre that hosted a performance “exclusively for black audiences” is demanding that the Human Rights Tribunal of Ontario dismiss a complaint because the complainant is white and therefore has “no standing” to claim racial discrimination.
The complaint was filed by former People’s Party of Canada candidate Robert Stewart earlier this year concerning “Black Out Nights” performances hosted by Theatre Passe Muraille.
In response to Stewart’s complaint, Theatre Passe Muraille’s lawyer, Morgan Sim, filed a response vehemently denying the allegations and asserting that the complainant, being white, is not entitled to any relief for racial discrimination.
The theater’s legal argument draws on a previous Ontario human rights tribunal ruling, Lisikh v. Ontario (Education), which held that white individuals and those who are non-racialized do not have standing to claim racial discrimination.
“Here, the Applicant has only identified himself as ‘non-black’. To the extent that the Applicant is a white and non-racialized individual, he has no standing to allege racial discrimination in the context of theatre performances in Toronto,” wrote Sim.
“Her analysis regarding the social construction of race suggests that white people may not have standing to claim discrimination on the basis of race given that “race” within the meaning of the Code describes the process of “racialization” which white people do not often experience in the context of a white-dominant culture.”
According to executive director of Rights Probe and law professor at Queen’s University Bruce Pardy, the Code allows for a “special programs” loophole which enables discrimination in favour of certain groups.
“The Tribunal recently said and the theatre is now arguing that white people are fair game for discrimination and have no right to complain about it. For Canadians who asumed that they had a right to equal treatment under the law, this may be a rude awakening. Equity makes the law unequal.”