Student equity panel condemns “Too Asian?” article

Maclean’s says incident is “all in the past” despite calls for funding cuts from community groups

On March 26, a panel discussion titled “Too Asian? And Beyond: Stereotypes and Representation of Asian North Americans in the Media” was held as part of the Equity and the Media Conference. The conference was co-hosted by the Equity Committees of SSMU and PGSS.

The panel was held amidst nationwide condemnation of Maclean’s November 2010 “Too Asian?” article, which addressed the increased enrolment of Asian students in Canadian universities.

McGill students and Montreal communities are circulating a petition to pull Maclean’s $1.5 million in federal funding.

Ed Lee, a coordinator and panelist of the “Too Asian? And Beyond” discussion, said the panel “was a good way to start a conversation and a dialogue around the issues,” and to raise awareness.

Following the publication of the “Too Asian?” article in November, groups from across the country formed the Community Coalition for the Elimination of Anti-Asian Racism, and drafted an open letter to the magazine asking for a public apology.

In response, Maclean’s sent the Coalition a letter, demanding an apology and a retraction of their open letter. The magazine wrote that the Coalition’s letter was a “deliberate and obscene misrepresentation of Maclean’s journalism” and that it was “clearly objectionable and…defamatory.”

The magazine’s legal counsel, who authored the letter, could not be reached for comment.

In December, the Coalition organized a petition to pull federal funding from Maclean’s. Karen Sun, Executive Director of the Chinese Canadian National Council (CCNC) – a member of the Coalition – expressed why they felt the need to start the petition.

“We’ve tried to have conversations with Maclean’s; we invited Maclean’s to attend a community forum so that they could actually speak to the community directly, [but] they don’t seem to be interested in talking to us. So we’re talking to the government,” said Sun.

“It would be great to have a national magazine that actually represents the views of the Canadian public in the broadest sense, [but] I’m part of the Canadian public and I’m not happy that my taxpayer dollars are going to a magazine that’s offending me,” she continued.

As stated in the petition, the Ministry of Canadian Heritage can revoke funding from periodicals for publishing offensive content that denigrates identifiable groups. The Coalition feels that Maclean’s has a history of publishing offensive materials. Among its complaints are an article about corruption in Quebec, and articles that the Coalition deemed “Islamophobic.”

Janet Lumb, a panelist at the discussion and director of Accès Asie – a Montreal Asian heritage festival spoke to The Daily. “They don’t say that about Harper, they don’t say that about Michael Ignatieff, they don’t make these proclamations with the more established,” she said. “Maclean’s is supposed to be more representative of the Canadian population, but it’s picking on minority organizations and minorities…to provoke and sell.”

According to Sun, the federal government has set up a grant with funding guidelines that state that if a publication prints offensive materials, it will become ineligible for funding.

“We want to ensure that…the rules are being followed,” said Sun.

A spokesperson from Maclean’s declined to comment, saying Maclean’s sees the incident as “all in the past.”

Lee estimates that he has close to 150 signatures; 25 signatures are required for submission to an MP.

“We’re going to try to do it before the election,” said Lee. “If we are able to get at least 150 or more signatures, then we can send it before May 2 and perhaps write a little note attached to it that says that we’re also paying attention to the elections that are coming up. I think that it’s good timing.”