It was a day like any other for Justin Leckie, a resident of Waterloo Region, when he visited Miltons on the evening of Nov. 10. The incident that took place on that fateful day jump-started a flurry of discussion and debate which continues.
Leckie and his service dog, Epi, had been seated in the restaurant when two men, who appeared to be employees, grabbed him and Leckie ended up on the floor. The exact details of the interaction are up for debate, but a video captured by Jeff Roy shows the violent and profanity-laden ejection of Leckie from the restaurant shortly after.
“I’m disgusted and in shock on how the owners assaulted this man,” said Tristan Coyle, an alumni of the Culinary Arts program at Conestoga College. “Restaurants should bring a feeling of comfort to the diners and guests so it’s a horrific sight to see the owners putting their hands on a guest.”
The Waterloo Region Police Services (WRPS) are investigating the incident, which is being conducted in addition to a separate alleged assault on a protester at approximately 4 p.m on Nov. 13.
Currently, Miltons and every institution which serves the public must abide by the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act (AODA), which states that businesses must be accessible to people with disabilities, which includes both mental and physical disabilities.
Allowing service dogs in Ontario has had a tumultuous history in the public sector, but a more lenient one in the private sector. Specifically, the Ontario Human Rights Tribunal case of Allarie v. Rouble is the closest comparable case.
If a complaint is brought on the basis of the AODA, then there are criteria which need to be satisfied for there to be grounds for discrimination.
- Proof of Disability
- That the service dog “assists him with his disability-related needs”
- That the Applicant was mistreated
- The mistreatment was because of his disability
Leckie, according to the standards set by the AODA and the Allarie v. Rouble court decision, would have the burden of proof in these matters.
“It is every establishment’s duty to follow the rules and regulations set down by the Ministry of Health as well as the AODA, we reaffirm our call to follow these instructions,” said Restaurants Canada in an email correspondence.
There might be an additional pandemic related cause to the violent outburst by the Miltons staff. In a Sept. 2021 article named “The Impact of the COVID-19 Pandemic on Occupational Stress in Restaurant Work,” the authors find that restaurant workers were experiencing “burnout, indicating that they had been operating under stress for a prolonged time.” Some respondents said it was only a matter of time before it “drove them crazy.”
Working for prolonged periods of time, relying on tips to supplement a lowered wage, might be the catalyst for a breaking point in an already stressed industry.