Two human rights complaints have been filed against two theatres for allegedly discriminating against Canadians on the grounds of race after hosting a performance “exclusively for Black audiences.” 

Former People’s Party of Canada candidate Robert Stewart has petitioned both the Human Rights Tribunal of Ontario (HRTO) and the Canadian Human Rights Commission (CHRC) over the controversial events which were labelled an act of segregation by some commentators.

True North has been provided with both complaints and has taken efforts to confirm their authenticity with each respective jurisdiction.  

On the federal level, Stewart’s complaint names the National Arts Centre (NAC) over a Feb. 17, 2023 “Black Out” performance that was advertised as an “open invitation to Black-identifying audiences” only. 

“Whether NAC will be physically banning non-black potential attendees during these ‘Black Out’ performances is unknown, but appears now to be unlikely. But due to the serious level of discomfort engendered by its new, still-racially exclusive policy, the announcement continues to amount to a de facto racial ban,” argued Stewart. 

“Given the announcements’ explicitly racial tenor and its continued appearance of an outright race-based ban, a reasonable member of the non-black public would naturally assume NAC’s policy was, in fact, to be implemented as a physical ban and would not attend as a consequence.”

Although the NAC eventually revised the invitation to remove the word “exclusively” after public outcry, Stewart maintains that Section 12 and Section 5 of the Human Rights Act was violated by the federal theatre. 

Section 12 prohibits publications of “any notice, sign, symbol, emblem or other representation” that expresses or implies intent to discriminate on protected grounds such as race. 

“There is little dispute that NAC’s online announcement of its ‘Black Out’ theatre dates are ‘publications or displays of a notice’ under this section,” claimed Stewart. 

Section 5 prohibits discriminatory practices when providing services or facilities. 

Stewart’s complaint calls on the CHRC to strike down the NAC’s policy and to have the theatre publicly post any strike down orders. 

A separate complaint to the HRTO names the Toronto Theatre Passe Muraille for violating the Ontario Human Rights Code by hosting similar “Black Out Nights” performances

“It’s so-called ‘Black Out Nights,’ as it states on its website, are ‘performances exclusively for Black audiences,’” wrote Stewart. 

“Clearly, the respondent’s policy is an explicit and racially ‘exclusive’ ban on potential attendees on account of their race. Further, even without a physical racial ban, due to the serious level of discomfort and discouragement engendered by such policy, the policy still amounts to a de facto racial ban.”

Stewart’s complaint argues that the theatre violated Section 13 and Section 1 of the Ontario Human Rights Code

True North reached out to the CHRC for comment on the case but was told that the law prevents them from even acknowledging the existence of a complaint. 

“Only the complainant themselves can confirm this information for you,” said a CHRC spokesperson. 

The HRTO was able to confirm the existence of the complaint stating that it was currently being processed. 

“The Human Rights Tribunal of Ontario has conducted a search and confirms it has received an application. However, the application has not yet been served and it continues to be within our processes,” said HRTO spokesperson Janet Deline.