Much Needed Relief: Ontario Courts Address Anti-Black Racism in the Context of Relief From Forfeiture

  • December 08, 2021
  • Ardy Mohajer, Kwaku Tabi, Spencer Green, Sabah Kalim

The Ontario Court of Appeal1 recently upheld the Ontario Superior Court of Justice decision in Elias Restaurant v. Keele Sheppard Plaza Inc.2 that took judicial notice of anti-black racism and factored in racial prejudice on the part of a landlord to grant a tenant the equitable remedy of relief from forfeiture.

The tenant, Elias Restaurant, operates a family-run restaurant serving African and Caribbean food from its premises in a shopping plaza in Toronto under a lease with the landlord, Keele Sheppard Plaza Inc. The term of the lease was originally for five years and the lease held that the tenant had two renewal options to extend the term by written notice to the landlord at least six months prior to the expiry of the relevant term. Although the tenant failed to strictly adhere to the terms of the notice provision, the tenant made significant efforts both before and after such notice deadline to contact the landlord and communicate its intention to extend the term. The landlord kept the tenant in an overholding position from August 2, 2017 to May 28, 2020, at which time it issued a notice of termination to the tenant. The tenant then sought relief from forfeiture from the court.