New Brunswick

N-word delivered at Burger King drive-thru in Dieppe

A soldier and part-time taxi driver says he routinely puts up with racial slurs and condescending comments while driving his cab, but he wasn't prepared for what he heard from a Burger King employee in Dieppe.

Employee fired, but cab driver Ronald Delice wants apology, plans to file human rights complaint

Ronald Delice, who drives taxi on weekends in Moncton, says he was 'shocked' and 'disgusted' by the racial slur. (Catherine Harrop/CBC)

A soldier and part-time taxi driver says he routinely puts up with racial slurs and condescending comments while driving his cab, but he wasn't prepared for what he heard from a Burger King employee in Dieppe.

Ronald Delice wants a formal apology from the fast-food company after the employee used the N-word when Delice drove four passengers up to the drive-thru on Paul Street on May 28.

It was around 1 a.m., and a song by black rapper 50 Cent was playing on the radio in the cab. The passengers asked the man at the window if he liked the music. 

He had no idea the impact that that caused on a person, the hurt that caused on a person to hear such slur. It can be very hurtful. Very.- Ronald Delice

"No, I don't like ni--gers," the employee replied.

"I was greatly shocked. I was disgusted," said Delice, who was born and raised in Montreal and works as a combat engineer with the Canadian Forces at Gagetown during the week.

"I was thinking, how is that possible, in this century, in this day and age that we live in, to hear something coming out so publicly, so freely, from somebody of that importance, because by his uniform, he was looking like some kind of manager, with a shirt and tie. So how is the possible?"

Delice got out of the cab to talk to the employee, and "asked him how he could have that mindset in 2017."

"I said in 2017, there is absolutely no way that that is acceptable. That he had no idea the impact that that caused on a person, the hurt that caused on a person to hear such slur. It can be very hurtful. Very."

Captured on video

The incident occurred at the Burger King drive-thru window on Paul Street on May 28 at around 1 a.m. (Catherine Harrop/CBC)
Delice was "very classy in the way he dealt wih the situation," said passenger Laura Dawe, who started recording the incident on her cellphone after he got back into the cab.

In the video, which she later posted on Burger King's Facebook page, the employee apologizes.

"I didn't mean anything by it," he says.

"I was greatly shocked, I was disgusted"

5 years ago
Duration 1:19
Ronald Delice was taking his taxi passengers through a drive-thru in Moncton when an employee made a racist comment.

The passengers — Dawe, her boyfriend and her two best female friends — express disbelief.

"Oh my God," says one.

"Apologize all you want, babe, but you need to check yourself, on what's appropriate and what's not, OK?" says another.

"Yeah," the employee replies.

"We've never been more disgusted and disappointed as we've never experienced this in the Maritimes," Dawe wrote in her Facebook post. "Needless to say we won't be back anytime soon."

'Like you're less than nobody'

The employee at the window was subsequently fired, according to the local Burger King owner.

But Delice is still shaken by the encounter and wants an apology. 

He also plans to file a complaint with the New Brunswick Human Rights Commission.

"That loss of dignity, that loss of feeling, like you're less than nobody," he said. "And that brings back so much things that you don't want to think of.

"Because through the years, you've been over that, through that. We've been educated through our society that it's not right."

Delice's wife, Chrystal Hatto, said racism is nothing new to either of them.

"My husband is black, and my children are brown, I have experienced this daily for 18 years," she said. "Absolutely."

Normally, Delice "has a thick skin," Hatto said. "It's not his first racist encounter, and it won't be his last."

'Very hurt by it, humiliated'

Chrystal Hatto says her husband, Ronald Delice, has been on the front lines of Afghanistan but seemed more shaken by the Burger King incident. (Catherine Harrop/CBC)

He usually sloughs it off or patiently tries to educate the offender, she said.

This time it was different.

"Literally, I've never seen an issue affect him to that point," Hatto said, "He's been on the front lines of Afghanistan and didn't seem as affected as he was by this issue.

"I've never seen something all-consume him like this. I never have. I've never seen him put so much effort into trying to prove a point. He was very, very hurt by it, humiliated."

Hatto, who also posted about the incident on Facebook in a bid to raise awareness, eventually spoke on the phone with the Burger King owner, Tracey MacDonald.

"She was very kind, she was very diplomatic, she was apologetic," said Hatto. But MacDonald never called her husband to apologize to him, she said.

When CBC News spoke with MacDonald, she said she had had a lengthy conversation with Hatto and thought the situation was settled.

She said that her family has owned the franchise for more than 35 years, that it has a culturally diverse staff, and that she handled the situation promptly.

MacDonald said the restaurant does not share the views of that one employee, whom she subsequently fired. She said he didn't give a reason for what he said.

'Diversity' department

Ronald Delice says he's still waiting for a reply from Burger King's diversity department at its Miami headquarters about what, if any, diversity training the company offers employees. (Catherine Harrop/CBC)
Delice said the fact the comment came "from a suited employee of higher position in a restaurant" made it particularly troubling.

"It's not expected, it's not tolerable," he said. "The young man was clearly not remorseful. He was probably embarrassed that he was caught on camera, and that was the extent of it."

Delice sent a letter to Burger King's diversity department at company headquarters in Miami on May 31, asking for a direct apology, and an explanation of what diversity training it provides to staff.

"For me, I see that there is a lot more than just firing a person," said Delice, who has not received a reply. "There's all the awareness."

CBC News reached out to Burger King on June 6 but has not yet received a reply.

MacDonald said that, to her knowledge, Burger King does not offer any "diversity" training.

Delice contends diversity training should either be implemented or followed up regularly.

"Nobody should be subject to such disgraceful comment, no matter where you're from. We live in Canada. We shouldn't have to deal with that."

Burger King later told CBC its team encourages a culture of care and respect for guests and the employees in their restaurants. A representative said te Dieppe franchisee, who independently owns and operates the restaurant, is looking into the incident.