Mcleans Does it Again: First Muslims Now Asian Stereotyping


TORONTO/VANCOUVER, Nov. 15, 2010 – Canadians today strongly condemned editorial decisions at Maclean’s news magazine and the Toronto Star that use racial stereotyping to promote their publications, calling for public apologies and equal editorial space to counter harm done.

“How can a headline, ‘Too Asian’?, not be racist? This is irresponsible journalism that relies on spreading racial stereotypes to sell magazines and newspapers,” says Avvy Go, clinic director of the Metro Toronto Chinese and Southeast Asian Legal Clinic (MTSALC).

“It pushes us back 30 years to the ‘W5 incident,’ when CTV portrayed Asian Canadians as ‘foreigners,’ taking away places at universities from white Canadians, and now we are being blamed for bringing up the academic standard to their disadvantage,” adds Go. “If this is not racism, then I don’t know what is.”

“Thankfully, readers and viewers today are much more educated and recognize racial stereotyping when it occurs,” says Harbhajan Gill, president of the Komagata Maru Heritage Foundation in Vancouver. ”Not only do they recognize this as an insidious form of racism, they also are quick and determined in their condemnation of it.”

The 20th anniversary edition of national news magazine Maclean’s university rankings, which hit newsstands Thursday, Nov. 11, 2010, carried an article that was headlined, ‘Too Asian’?” This article creates and promotes a false perception that ethnic Asian students are limiting opportunities for non-Asians at certain Canadian universities and offers up a litany of stereotypes as proof.

The Toronto Star’s main headline story on Wednesday, Nov. 10, 2010, made advance reference to the Maclean’s article, seemingly without any editorial consideration that they were also spreading the racist views contained within the Maclean’s article.

“Rather than dealing with the true issues of meritocracy, the role of universities in screening for the rewards of professional careers, and whether higher education means more than just a higher income later in life, Maclean’s obscures any insights it might make with its racist profiling of ‘Asians’ and ‘whites,’” says Henry Yu, history professor at the University of British Columbia.

“The title ‘Too Asian’? draws upon over a century of racist politics using the term ‘Asian’ to flatten everyone who looks ‘Oriental’ in the eyes of bigots into a single category, which is somehow threatening to ‘white’ Canadians.”

Indeed, commentary on Maclean’s own website by its readers is more articulate and intelligent than the writers and editors themselves, and in many instances dismisses the article as being pointless and inflammatory.

“Maclean’s and the Toronto Star need to issue public apologies for their treatment of Canadians,” says MTSALC’s Go. “These apologies should appear in their print and online editions as well as in other national and local media.”

Community groups across Canada will also seek public consultations with both Maclean’s and the Toronto Star, as well as pursue remedies in the form of changes to policy at both media groups that result in preventing further racial stereotyping and racial profiling.

“’Too Asian’? is a question asked-and-answered by Maclean’s in a story that seems to be deliberately contrived to create controversy,” says Neethan Shan, executive director of the Council of Agencies Serving South Asians (CASSA) in Toronto. “However, the question itself is irrelevant, irrational and even discriminatory in today’s Canadian society, which strives to value diversity and promote multiculturalism.”

“Making people into foreigners starts with the media,” comments Anthony B. Chan, professor of communications at University of Ontario Institute of Technology in Oshawa.

“In 1979, CTV's W5 program portrayed Canadians of Chinese heritage as foreigners and the Canadian government said nothing about it,” Chan recalls. “In 2010, Maclean’s and the Toronto Star portray Canadians of Chinese ancestry as outsiders, as people who don't fit into the European culture, as non-drinkers, as foreigners, as aliens.”

The so-called “W5 incident” in September 1979 gave rise to the Chinese Canadian National Council, which formed the following year. CTV wrongfully represented Chinese Canadians in an investigative story, titled “Campus Giveaway,” that claimed Asian students were eroding opportunities at getting a secondary education for “Canadian” students. Many of the students portrayed in the W5 program were naturalized citizens or born in Canada.

“One of the first lessons I learned when I was working was how important it is to change the stereotypical thinking that newcomers have about who Canadians are,” says Winnie Cheung, former director of international student services at UBC. “After chipping away at these myths for the last two decades, there is now a better understanding, at least in a city like Vancouver, that someone who looks ‘foreign’ may be a fifth-generation Canadian.”

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W5 Incident backgrounder:
“The idea that if you’re not white, you’re not Canadian, or in some way, you’re less Canadian, is racist, divisive and deplorable.” (4:55) – Stephen Lewis in An Audio-Visual Analysis of W5 – “Campus Giveaway” Available online on YouTube at: (Part 1 of 2) (Part 2 of 2)

Avvy Go, clinic director, Metro Toronto Chinese and Southeast Asian Legal Clinic, 416-971-9674
Harbhajan Gill, president, Komagata Maru Heritage Foundation, 604-763-1736
Henry Yu, history professor, University of British Columbia, 778-895-5088
Neethan Shan, executive director, Council of Agencies Serving South Asians, 416-932-1359
Anthony B. Chan, communications professor, University of Ontario Institute of Technology, 647-343-9178
Winnie Cheung, former director of UBC international student services, 604-836-8838
Brad Lee, media co-ordinator, 416-399-9850

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