A Montreal-area barhas been fined $25,000 for refusing to serve black customers.
In the ruling, the Quebec Human Rights Commission described Longueuil's Le Surf as racist and exclusionary and said a steep fine was necessary to send the bar a message.
Seydou Diallo, one of the individuals refused at the bar, said he's still shocked by his treatment at Le Surf, which occurred three years ago.
Diallo and a friend, Mamadou El Bachir Gologo,visited Le Surfin September 2003 looking for a drink at their local watering hole. He said the twowere flabbergasted when they were denied service because of their skin colour.
"The first time we asked for a drink the manager told us, 'We cannot serve you.' I say 'Why?' andhe says, 'That's our policy. No black people inside.' "
Diallo said the manager thenuttered a number of racistslurs, branding blacks "gang members," "bandits" and"troublemakers."
Diallo said he was stunned by the commentsand offered up his university student card andother pieces of identification to placate the manager, but to no avail.
Upset about the incident, Diallo went to the press and ended up going back to the same bar a few days later with reporter StÃ©phane Alarie, from the Journal de Montreal.
Alarie, a Caucasian, disguised himself as a black person (with the help of a special-effects and makeup expert) and ventured into the bar with Diallo to check out his story.
The two were denied service, but this time Alarie recorded the exchange and went public with the story in October 2003 in a series on racism where he went undercover as a black person for a week.
An isolated incident
"I don't think he [the owner] was trying to be mean, it was just ignorance," said Alarie of the incident.
"I'm convinced it was an isolated act, you don't see much of that in Montreal."
Diallo was later put in touch with theCentre for Research-Action on Race Relations (CRARR), and the group filed a complaint to the Human Rights Commission on behalf of Diallo and Gologo.
"After three long years of waiting, I am glad with the decision," said Diallo of the commission's penalty.
Fo Niemi, head of the race-relations group, also applauded the fine.
"Twenty-five thousand, should serve as a reminderâ¦ that racism can cost you a lot."
Le Surf was given a month to pay the fine. The commission is also demanding that the bar demonstrate that it has changed its policy to include customers of all racial backgrounds and orientations.