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Christie V. the York Corporation

In: Social Issues

Submitted By preshan
Words 1190
Pages 5
Was the Christie v. The York Corporation Correctly Decided?

Prepared for: Professor McMurrow
Prepared by: Preshan
February 1st 2013

Christie v. The York Corporation was one of the most controversial cases in Canadian history in regards to how the law was interpreted in a way that would discriminate an individual due to race. The case sheds light on how the courts interpreted the legislation in a manner that can be seen as an individual’s human rights being violated. Being of different race, Fred Christie was refused to be served beer at a pub due to him being a coloured person. Christie entered a bar with some friends to catch a hockey game, however was refused to be served alcohol by the staff. Feeling humiliated, Christie decided to take to the court. The case made it through the Canadian court system all the way up to the Supreme Court of Canada. At the trial, the judge found that Christie was in deed mistreated and it was a clear violation of parts of the Quebec Licence Act. In result, the court awarded Christie compensation of $25 for the humiliation that Christie suffered and as well covered the legal costs. When appealed to the court of appeals, the judgement was reversed and dismissed Christie’s initial complaint. Appealing the decision to the Supreme Court, Christie realizes that the highest court of the State didn’t overrule the reversal of the trial judgement but affirm it. Christie v. The York Corporation was incorrectly decided. The interpretation of the legislation varied amongst the trial judge and the judges from both the Appeals Court and Supreme Court. The higher courts failed to recognize the discrimination of the law due to Christie’s race. At the first trial, the judge felt that the York Corporation did indeed violate sections 19 and 33 of the Quebec Licence Act. The key terms that perhaps allowed the judge to come to such ruling would be ‘traveller’ and ‘food’ and ‘restaurant’. A ‘traveller’ is a person who, in consideration of a given price per day, or fraction of a day, on the American or European plan, or per meal is furnished by another person with food or lodging, or both. A ‘restaurant’ is an establishment, provided with special space and accommodation, where, in consideration of payment, food (without lodging) is habitually furnished to travellers. The trial judge ruled that the York Corporation violated sections 19 and 33 of the Quebec Licence Act. It can be understood how the trial judge viewed beer as food hence the violation of the Stature. However, at the appeal court, the judges did not classify beer as ‘food’, nor did they consider Christie as a ‘traveller’. Beer being an alcohol beverage is not a necessity for survival and Christie was not a person that was considered a traveller as he was a resident of Montreal. They felt the freedom of commerce had more value. In other words, the appeal court found York Corporation was within grounds to refusing to serve Christie as it was a private enterprise. The freedom of commerce gives businesses the make decisions that will overall benefit the company in a positive manner. The Court of King’s Bench was ruling in favour of the York Corporation due to a previous case, Loew’s Montreal Theatres v. Reynolds. The case was about a non-Caucasian man wanting to claim damages as he wasn’t able to be a purchase a ticket for one of the events at the theatre due to his race. When taken to court, the judge ruled that the management can decide who it wants to allow in the theatre and who can’t. Christie’s counsel then was able to successfully bring it before the Supreme Court. However, not all justices were on the same page. Everyone except Honourable Justice Henry Hague Davis, were agreeing with the Court of King’s Bench. They concluded that the legal doctrine of “complete freedom of commerce” overrides any other applicable legislation even the Quebec Licence Act. Justice Davis disagreed with his colleagues as the York Corporation was a business that relied on having a valid permit to sell liquor. In order to operate any sort of business in which that sells alcohol, the business must apply for the liquor licence. The liquor licence can only be given by the government; it cannot be given by any private body. Justice Davis’s dissertation argued since this specific licence is granted by the government, and since the government in democratically chosen, the permit, which represents the people, shall allow the business to serve whomever regardless of race. The judge’s point of view is that it is the government is represented by its people and since the government is the only one to authorize such permits to businesses. Justice Davis believed that Christie being part of the Montreal community should not be discriminated due to his race when going to a local tavern and enjoying responsibly a couple beers with his friends. As per the incident, there weren’t signs of Christie behaving in an unacceptable way nor was he showing signs of intoxication. The other 4 judges voted for the case to be dismissed as they followed the Court of King’s Bench ruling. Christie v. The York Corporation is a historical case of how Canadian law was shaped in a way that disadvantaged people of different race. At the time of the case, there weren’t any established legislature that protected individuals of different race being treated unequally. Despite the lack of this, the colleagues of Justice Davis failed to realize that Canada is practices democracy in electing its officials. If there was no strict process for businesses to follow when applying for permits to selling liquor, then it can be comprehended that the York Corporation was operating without any sort involvement with the government. However, that wasn’t in this particular case. As previously mentioned, the York Corporation had to obtain a liquor licence in order for them to operate as a tavern. Christie living in Montreal for many years went to the pub prior many times and wasn’t refused prior. The Supreme Court failed to reinforce its Canadian democratic values when it decided to rule in favour of the York Corporation, thus incorrectly deciding this case making it a notable one.

LEGISLATION Quebec Licence Act, R.S.Q. 1925 c.19-33
Supreme Court Act [1939] S.C.R. 50.

Christie v. The York Corporation, [1940] S.C.R. 139 Loew's Theatres v. Reynolds (1921), Q.R. 30 B.R. 459.

“Christie c. York Corporation” Canadian Human Rights Commission (25 January 2013), online: Government of Canada
Eric M. Adams “Errors of Fact and Law: Race, Space, and Hockey in Christie v York” (2012) 62 Univ. of Toronto L.J.463

[ 1 ]. “Christie c. York Corporation” Canadian Human Rights Commission (25 January 2013), online: Government of Canada
[ 2 ]. Ibid
[ 3 ]. Ibid.
[ 4 ]. Ibid.
[ 5 ]. Ibid.
[ 6 ]. Loew's Theatres v. Reynolds (1921), Q.R. 30 B.R. 459.
[ 7 ]. Ibid.
[ 8 ]. Christie v. The York Corporation, [1940] S.C.R. 139
[ 9 ]. Ibid.…...

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