Open letter to Maclean’s, Star calls for end to “anti-Asian racism”

An open letter addressed to the editors, publishers and writers of Maclean’s and The Toronto Star calls
out the publications for two articles that “serve to reinforce
anti-Asian resentment” by creating an “us vs them” narrative.

A Maclean’s article titled “Too Asian?” and a Star article titled “Asian students suffering for success” are both under fire for simplifying a complex issue through the use of racial stereotypes.

The Star‘s public editor Kathy English wrote in the wake of the controversy that “the Star fell short of its usual standard of sensitivity.”

Here is the letter, reproduced in full:

    Kenneth Whyte, publisher and editor-in-chief, Maclean’s,
    Cathrin Bradbury, editor-in-chief and general manager,    Maclean’s Intelligence Unit,
    Mary Dwyer, senior editor, University Rankings,
    Philippe Gohier, acting managing editor,,
    Carson Jerema, editor, OnCampus,
    Nicholas Kohler, senior writer,
    Stephanie Findlay, intern,
    John A. Honderich, chair, Torstar Corp.,
    John D. Cruickshank, publisher, Toronto Star,
    Michael Cooke, editor,
    Kathy English, public editor,
    Louise Brown, education reporter

    A Call to Eliminate Anti-Asian Racism
    November 23, 2010

We, the undersigned, believe that the “Too Asian”? article in the
Maclean’s magazine and the “Asian students suffering for success” article in the Toronto Star newspaper, published on November 10,
2010, worked to racially profile and stereotype Asian Canadians as
perpetual foreigners in Canada. These articles served to reinforce anti-Asian resentment and antagonism by raising anxieties over Canada’s changing demographics and the emergence of China and India as global powers. Both media outlets generated binary “us” versus “them” distinctions between white and Asian Canadians, consequently inciting racial antipathy and division, instead of fostering a constructive dialogue on diversity and integration.

The articles symbolize the failure of Maclean’s and the Toronto Star to uphold their journalistic and corporate social
responsibility. The damaging impact of racial stereotyping and
antagonism is far-reaching, not just in the realms of media, business, education, workplace, and the society at large, but also to the targeted ethno-cultural individuals and communities.

Maclean’s and the Toronto Star recycled historical and ongoing
depictions of Asians as “yellow and brown perils” that threaten the Canadian social order. These media depictions remind us of past anti-Asian government legislation, programs, and public thinking. The Head Tax and Immigration Exclusion laws, the Continuous Journey regulations, and the World War II Internment targeted the Chinese, South Asian, and Japanese Canadian communities, respectively. In 1979 the CTV television news series W5 portrayed Canadian citizens and permanent residents of Asian descent as “foreigners,” allegedly taking over Canadian educational institutions. We see Maclean’s and the Toronto Star as reinforcing a long and deeply ingrained history of anti-Asian racial anxiety that has led to bigoted profiling and discrimination of Asian Canadians.

The media’s racial distinction of “us” versus “them” works within a troubling understanding of Canada in which white people or those of European descent are considered the sole rightful citizens and beneficiaries of the nation. Such an understanding makes it difficult to conceive of Canadian universities as educational institutions where Asians as well as Aboriginal peoples and other communities of colour, such as African, Caribbean, Latin American, and Middle Eastern peoples, can also belong. Racialized individuals and communities face challenges to their claims of belonging when certain institutions and entitlements are already deemed as not for them.

The media often portray Asian Canadians in homogeneous ways and fail to account for diversity within the group. They do not distinguish among Asians who are Canadian-born, naturalized citizens, newcomer immigrants, or international students. They neglect to consider the varying educational circumstances of Asian
Canadians based on income, class, gender, religion, and language.
They lump all Asian Canadians together regardless of their ancestral background, whether they are from China, India, Japan,
South Korea, the Philippines, Vietnam, or Sri Lanka. Since
Maclean’s and the Toronto Star depicted Asian Canadians as a
homogeneous model minority, they failed to acknowledge the various structural roots of the academic and social struggles that many Asian Canadian students experience. They also missed seeing how community groups are addressing barriers that hinder their goals and pathways for genuine settlement, integration, and well-being in this country.

Although Asian Canadians have been and continue to be discriminated against by racist media portrayals, government policies, and some public opinion, they also have been actively recruited for their labour and capital. Their labour has been crucial to the development of this nation, ranging from the construction of the Canadian Pacific Railway 125 years ago to the recruitment of temporary workers and live-in caregivers of children and the elderly over the last 25 years. Their financial resources have been keenly sought after, as they are considered economic migrants who could bring investment and entrepreneurial capital, and as international students whose high tuition fees augment the inadequate funding of public education. Many Canadian universities aggressively reach out to and recruit students from Asia.

As such, Asian Canadians are trapped in a perpetual racist contradiction: they are both wanted and unwanted in this country.

So long as they provide labour, capital, and expertise to the Canadian economy, they are wanted. However, when they assert their entitlement to human rights, genuine integration, and even education in Canada, their sense of belonging is challenged.

Since the media – as well as educational institutions — have perpetrated racial stereotyping, oppression, and antagonism, they  need to change their policies and practices in order to help realize the promise of a truly multicultural Canada.

    Therefore, we demand that Maclean’s and the Toronto Star:
    *      must issue a comprehensive and unqualified public apology
    to Asian Canadians;
    *      must engage in public consultations to address racial
    profiling and stereotyping via their media outlets;
    *      must implement measurable corporate and editorial
    anti-racism policies in consultation with relevant community
    constituents, and must publish the results of their policies annually;
    *      and, must implement employment equity programs to
    diversify their corporate and editorial boards and frontline

    We also demand that Canadian institutions of higher education:
    * must develop academic programs and courses that explicitly
    address racism in Canada and the historical and contemporary
    experiences, representations, and contributions of Asian Canadians;
    *  must undertake and publish campus climate surveys of
    racialized students, staff, and faculty;
    *  and, must establish advocacy and support offices for
    racialized students, staff, and faculty.

    We sign this open letter in solidarity with principles and
    struggles to eliminate anti-Asian racism.


-Canadian coalition of community partners to eliminate anti-Asian racism
-National Anti-Racism Council of Canada
-Council of Agencies Serving South Asians
-Chinese Canadian National Council Toronto Chapter
-Komagata Maru Heritage Foundation
-University of Toronto Students’ Union
-Ryerson Students’ Union
-Youth Coalition Against Maclean’s
-RAW – Raging Asian Women
-Cowessess First Nation (Sasatchewan)
-Graduate Geography and Planning Student Society, University of Toronto
-National Association of Japanese Canadians – Toronto Chapter
-Philippine Women Centre of Ontario
-SIKLAB Ontario (Advance the Rights and Welfare of Overseas Filipino Workers)
-Filipino Canadian Youth Alliance / Ugnayan ng Kabataang Pilipinosa Canada
-Community Alliance for Social Justice (Filipino Canadian alliance)
-Migrante Canada (Filipino Canadian national migrant labour organization)
-Labour Education Centre
-United Steelworkers, Canadian National Human Rights Committee
-Asian Canadian Labour Alliance – Ontario Chapter
-Asian Canadian Labour Alliance – British Columbia Chapter
-Coalition of Black Trade Unionists – Ontario Chapter
-Latin American Trade Union Coalition
-International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers Canada
-Ontario Council of Agencies Serving Immigrants
-Centre for Integrative Anti-Racism Studies
-Anniversaries of Change Coalition Steering Committee, Vancouver, B.C.
-Japanese Students at UBC (University of British Columbia)
-Calgary Chinese Community Service Association
-Calgary Anti-Racism Education
– The Ties That Bind: Building the CPR, Building a Place in Canada
-Sien Lok Society of Calgary
-Women Together Ending Poverty
-Hassle Free Clinic
Ginger Post
Perspectives Magazine, University of British Columbia
-Communications, Energy and Paperworkers Union, Local 2025
-Canadian Auto Workers
-Victor Gomes, Equity Committee, Toronto and York Labour
-Dr. Tania Das Gupta, Dept. of Equity Studies, York University
-Omar Latif, Committee of Progressive Pakistani Canadians
-Evelyn Encalada, Justice for Migrant Workers
-Amal Rana, Pakistan Action Network