Last month’s news comes to council later this week: “Too Asian” never dies

Sit down and let us tell you a story of long ago. Back in the mists of time—November—a magazine ran a regrettable article with a regrettable title. We laughed, we cried, we learned, and then the country moved on to the latest shiny distraction. Except that some people aren’t as distracted by Justin Bieber or the latest Colin Firth movie as we are, so two Toronto city councillors are bringing the matter of the “Too Asian” article to council so that 45 people who don’t work in publishing can register an opinion on a month-old controversy. Mike Layton has brought forward, and Kristyn Wong-Tam has seconded, this motion at council, which concludes:

Many community organizations have called upon Maclean’s to issue an unqualified apology to the people of Toronto for the negative stereotyping and impressions of people of Asian descent who form nearly a quarter of the City’s population. The City of Victoria has passed a motion expressing its concern for the impact of this article and other cities are also considering similar actions. Therefore, in keeping with the City’s leadership role in seeking to eliminate racism and discrimination, Toronto City Council is called upon to disassociate itself from the views expressed by this article and to reinforce the rights of any student to attend post-secondary education without limitation.

This isn’t the first run-in with poorly chosen descriptions of Toronto’s Asian community for Wong-Tam: almost three years ago, she and others offended by Rob Ford’s description of “Orientals” who “work like dogs” lay down in front of Ford’s office demanding an apology, an apology that Ford eventually gave under some duress—and not before marshalling some bizarre defenses, like citing a supermarket flyer to prove that the word “Oriental” wasn’t rude or racist. Yes, he did.

But back to the issue at hand. While some people are criticizing Layton for this motion, it’s worth noting that the House of Commons passed a meaningless motion about a Maclean’s article not too long ago, and we can hardly expect Toronto city hall to be any more sensible than the men and women up in Ottawa.

Request for Apology for the media article “Too Asian?" [Toronto]


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