Maclean’s subsidy questioned after “Too Asian?” headline

After Maclean’s magazine’s headline “Too Asian?” on an article about Canadian universities provoked a public uproar, Senator Vivienne Poy wrote to Heritage Minister James Moore this month suggesting the government should take away the magazine’s $1.5-million annual subsidy.

The Globe and Mail reported that the Liberal senator – the first Canadian senator of Asian ancestry, according to Wikipedia – Vivienne_Poy wrote that Maclean’s “has offended large portions of the Canadian population through its divisive journalism. As such … it should no longer be deemed worth of public funding by Canadian Heritage.”

The subsidy is part of the Canada Periodical Fund, which provides support to eligible Canadian magazines and newspapers. As Edward Keenan points out in Eye Weekly, the subsidy goes to many publications and is calculated based primarily on circulation. Keenan argues that as the subsidy is intended to help Canadian publishers “overcome market disadvantages and continue to provide Canadian readers with the content they choose to read,” not to support particular types of content, the government should not deny funding because it disagrees with a publication’s content.

Maclean’s has been criticised for the original headline, “Too Asian?” on an article about Canadian university enrolment, the online version of which has since been retitled “The enrolment controversy” with a footnote pointing to the magazine’s reaction to the complaints about the original title.

The Maclean’s article’s point is that some students are avoiding certain universities because they see them as too academically focused and don’t want to compete with students of Chinese and Japanese background who are seen (deservedly, the article says) as academic high achievers. Maclean’s says it intended the “Too Asian?” headline to be provocative but not offensive.

It’s not the first time Maclean’s has upset an identifiable group recently, though. Earlier this year a cover  story describing Quebec as “the most corrupt province in Canada” stirred considerable controversy.

And in 2006 the magazine published an excerpt from a book by Mark Steyn – a Maclean’s columnist – titled “America Alone – The End of the World as we Know It”. In that excerpt, Steyn argued that higher birth rates among Muslims mean they will make up a growing proportion of the world population – and that this is dangerous. The article led to protests from Islamic groups and to formal complaints to human rights commissions, since dismissed.