T oronto, ON (CUP) —Criticism continues three months after Maclean’s published a controversial article claiming that white students find it difficult to get into preferred schools because Canadian universities are overpopulated by Asian students.
Brad Lee, a Toronto-based activist who spent twenty years as a journalist with the Toronto Star, got involved by creating a Facebook page entitled “‘Too Asian’? TALK BACK.”
“I’m against the way they portrayed my community,” Lee said. “It fails to recognize the diversity within our community. I’m a fourth-generation Chinese-Canadian. I’m Canadian through and through. What the fuck am I even doing in this conversation?”
The article was published in Maclean’s annual university rankings issue November 10, 2010. It agreed that for white students, going to a university highly populated by Asian students means higher levels of competition and “requires a sacrifice of time and freedom [white students are] not willing to make.”
The magazine has since changed the online title of the piece from “Too Asian?” to “The enrolment controversy.” However it has yet to issue a public apologize for the article.
Lee believes that the article is but another link to Canada’s silent but dark history of racism.
“There’s a veneer of multiculturalism and diversity,” he said. “Racism and discrimination is very much a part of Canada’s past.”
Following widespread criticism from student unions, readers and politicians, Toronto’s city council voted to request an apology from the magazine on December 16. Toronto was the third city to make such a request, following Victoria and Vancouver.
Florence Li, project coordinator at the Toronto chapter of the Chinese Canadian National Council, helped start a youth coalition against Maclean’s after the “Too Asian?” article was published.
“When I read it, I couldn’t believe that something like this could be printed,” she said.
Li helped organize the first meeting of the youth coalition in November through email and Facebook. Around 100 people showed up to the event.
“I have no doubt that there are some people that might think the same way,” said Li about the racial stereotypes articulated by students in the article. “For a national magazine to be asking that question is different from a few students thinking that classes are too competitive now.”
Though the article claimed that a predominantly Asian population in universities is a problem that most schools avoid discussing, universities across the country are holding rallies against Maclean’s.
Students atRyerson University held a rally titled: “‘Too Asian? Talk Back: Calling Media to Account” in January to discuss the media’s responsibility in perpetuating stereotypes.
Universities like McMaster, the University of Toronto, the University of Victoria and the University of British Columbia have also held organized talks. The University of Victoria’s students’ society also passed a motion in late November to ban sale of the magazine if an apology was not issued.
Lee doesn’t have faith that Maclean’s will apologize any time soon.
“Maclean’s has issued a clarification and I don’t think they’re going to go any further than that,” he said. “I would like them to apologize, but I don’t think they’re going to.”
However, Li doesn’t believe the apology, is the main issue.
“Even if we don’t get it, we still consider this a victory,” she said. “The general idea is to raise awareness about this issue.”