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Human Rights in Canada: An Historical Perspective

Racial discrimination in Franklin v. Evans

July 20th, 1923
London, Ontario

Mr. Franklin is a watchmaker from Kitchener. Mr. Evans runs a restaurant in London. On July 20th, 1923 the two would meet in Mr. Evans' restaurant. It is a meeting neither would ever forget.

Upon entering the restaurant, Mr. Franklin, a "negro", was accosted by Mr. Evans who informed him that "coloured" people were not welcome.

Taken aback, he left, spoke to the police, and returned to make sure he had heard right. He had. Mr. Evans makes that point very clear.

Humiliated and angry, Mr. Franklin sued Mr. Evans for damages. He argued that every Canadian citizen has a right to be served regardless of skin colour.

Can you guess how things turned out?

London, Ontario
1924

The judge, while sympathetic, doesn't side with Mr. Franklin. There were no laws to say that what Mr. Evans did was illegal. A restaurateur can discriminate on any basis - even race. Mr. Franklin's action is dismissed.

It is interesting to note that although the losing party customarily pays the winner's legal costs, the judge doesn't order Mr. Franklin to pay anything.

Why?

Because of the "unnecessarily harsh, humiliating and offensive attitude of the defendant and his wife toward the plaintiff."

Apparently, the judge thought that the law itself wasn't enough to provide justice here.

Quotable quote

"The defendant confirmed the previous refusal - in fact he repeated it and he certainly was not as humane or considerate as he well might have been. If I said that he was unpardonably offensive, the expression may have been too strong, but not much too strong."

From Franklin v. Evans

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Franklin v. Evans