Ontario Court of Appeal affirms anti-Black racism motivated commercial landlord-tenant dispute


The application judge was “entitled to conclude that anti-Black racism was relevant” in a commercial landlord-tenant dispute over the continuation of a lease held by a Toronto restaurant, the Court of Appeal has found.

The Court released its decision Wednesday in 8573123 Canada Inc. (Elias Restaurant) v. Keele Sheppard Plaza Inc., 2021 ONCA 371. The landlord had appealed the order, made by Justice Edward Morgan of the Superior Court, that it not terminate the restaurant’s lease. The Court dismissed the appeal.

Elias Restaurant is “a Black-owned and operated business” which caters to “an Afro-Caribbean community,” said the decision. Elias’s proprietors had argued the landlord’s desire to evict was racially motivated

“This is a remarkable decision that will help in the fight against institutional and systemic racism in Canada,” says Miguna Miguna, counsel for the tenant and managing partner at KMM Lawyers.

Miguna adds that it is significant that Ontario’s top court ruled that Justice Morgan was correct to invoke anti-Black racism and its relevance to the landlord’s refusal to negotiate a lease renewal, “regardless of whether the Landlord's actions were consciously motivated by racism.”

At trial, the landlord had argued the restaurant failed to give the required notice of their intention to renew the lease. The landlord also told the court it intended to increase its rental income by renting to a doctor’s office.

On both counts, Justice Morgan rejected the landlord’s stated motivations.

The tenants had tried to contact the landlord, both before and after the lease-renewal deadline, but were “studiously avoided.” The restaurant had also offered to pay a monthly rent of $7,500, which appeared to exceed what the landlord had negotiated with the doctor, and the landlord had failed to provide the court with an exact number on what this prospective tenant would pay.