Layton demands an apology for the negative stereotyping of Asians.

Toronto city councillor Mike Layton’s first motion at city council was to ask Maclean’s magazine to “apologize unreservedly” for its “negative stereotyping of the Asian-Canadian community”. He says it is not an unreasonable request. Councillor Adam Vaughan agreed with Layton, saying the city council should discuss the issue, given that many students live in the councillors’ wards.

“Toronto has always been a leader in ensuring we respect our multiculturalism,” Layton said. “It’s in our motto.”

Layton asked fellow city councillors to disregard the controversial views expressed in the article, which includes the suggestion that students of Asian heritage are preventing opportunities to non-Asian students at Canadian universities.

It is no surprise that Maclean’s should publish an article questioning whether post-secondary institutions are attracting the best students. However, this article targets one group, Asians, and one institution, the University of Toronto.

In the article, U of T is described as having a reputation of “being Asian”. The article suggests that Asian students are so “academically focussed” that they make it hard for white students to compete and “have fun”. The article does not address the argument that it’s up to each student, in any university, to go for fun over academia.

The article gives the impression that university is a club, or a sports centre, rather than an academic institution. It claims that white students believe that competing with Asian students “requires a sacrifice of time and freedom they’re not willing to make”. This raises the question that if one was not willing to make sacrifices in university, then they are clearly not serious about their academics—like others who are willing to make such sacrifices, and who may very well be Asian.

Perhaps most of the outrage is over the fact that multiculturalism does not seem to be respected. The article states that many Asians have felt resented at university for “taking white students’ spaces”. There is a mention of an Asian student being told off by a white mother at his high school graduation for taking her son’s spot in university.

The article also seems to suggest that U of T accepts students based on ethnic backgrounds, rather than on academic performances—the latter is, of course, the only actual basis of admission to U of T.

Some questions arise: Why is it such a concern that a top university like U of T should attract the top students, which happen to be Asian students? Why isn’t there an article called “UWO: Too White?”

Commented one reader on about the controversy, “Congratulations, Maclean’s, you really set a bar high for journalistic racism. It is really like reading off of a 1930s Nazi propaganda article, ‘Germany: Too Jewish?’ ”

The article was taken down from the website temporarily and then reposted with a few changes. Maclean’s has since changed the original title from “Too Asian?” to “The enrolment controversy” and put a link at the bottom of the article to a new article. The new article is entitled “Merit: the best and only way to decide who gets into university”.

In this article, the original story and the headline are belatedly explained. It ends saying: “One final note about the headline. Although the phrase ‘Too Asian?’ was a question and, again, a quotation from an authoritative source, it upset many people. We expected that it would be provocative, but we did not intend to cause offence.”

The edited article can be found at

  • Healthy

    Larissa, would you at least concede that whites are a distant ethnic minority on campus? Even if we are to put aside skin colour, shouldn’t Canadian citizens be prioritized higher than foreign nationals?

    This wouldn’t be a problem if the other “asian” students were also “Canadian’s”, but most of them aren’t, they are majority international students that the university exploits financially.

    Can you understand the mothers position when her Canadian son has been denied a spot in university reserved for someone who isn’t even a citizen here?

    Lets not even get started on the massive cheating scandal that allows asian, non-English speaking UofT students to get recycled assignments (plagiarism) from their friends within the Chinese students association.

    I assume something similar happens for the many non-English speaking Koreans on campus.

    The fact is UofT IS too asian, as a result of letting in too many international students.

  • Keith

    The commenter above mentions the cheating scandal that allows “asians” and “non-English speaking” UofT students to “plagiarize”, but I feel that’s a bit too ignorant, because I’m sure any groups or communities within UofT has the ability and resources to recycle assignments to their friends, not just non-English speaking people.

  • Larissa Ho

    Hello Healthy. No one can deny international students of their right to be in university. If universities want to maintain high academic reputations, their policy to admit students based on merit, not on nationality, must continue. A high academic record is the only way to get in to U of T. skin colour, athletic ability, ethnicity, etc. play no role at all. So how can you deny international students, who have the desire and the ability to excel academically, the university experience? The Asian students who are in university may have worked much harder than many white students to be in university, hence the reason those same white students have not made it in to U of T while the Asians who have worked hard, have made it. Why shouldn’t asian students receive the opportunities they deserve after their hard work? If universities were to exclude good students in favour of admitting students who are average, the reputations of those universities will deteriorate. The bottom line: give opportunities to the students who deserve them. It is not a matter of being a citizen or not being a citizen – it is a matter of being deserving or not.
    Being a first-year here, I have not heard of the “scandal” you refer to. However, I assume it is not true because of the same reasons Keith has pointed out: they simply do not have the ability to do that.
    I also assume that if white students were to work as hard as Asian students, they would likewise be populating U of T. However, they are not working as hard. Hence, they are not populating U of T like the Asians are. thank you for reading.

  • Healthy

    It’s a money issue, bottom line, whether you want to believe it or not. International students = money the school desperately needs to stay afloat.

    The cheating scandal is VERY real, if you want evidence, why not look in the academic misconduct files that are made available online? There are several cases detailing this very incidence, usually with no punishment.

    I suggest you read up about this and stop being so naive.

    I’m sure you know several people at the Chinese students association that cannot speak English, how do you think they complete their essays? Come on now…

    I meet at least 3 of these non-english speaking people every time I take a new tutorial.

    As for the higher academic standards from overseas, well I was given an explanation for that too from several Chinese students.

    Schools in China that are under performing boost the grades of their students, UofT makes no effort to standardize these grades through any form of testing, taking the results at face value. US Schools rightly do not allow this, as these transcripts can EASILY be manipulated.

    Lastly, just because there are some good students doesn’t mean that bodes well for the school, UTM school spirit is at an all time low as Asians choose not to assimilate with the school, choosing instead to live in parallel societies and ethnic enclaves.

    This does not benefit the school, as these people who have established no ties here, they will take their university education back home.

    Meanwhile the Canadians denied a spot will not be able to help our economy.

    And please Larissa, paragraphs….

    @Keith, you’re right it was unfair of me to single out the asian students association, basically every ethnic association (so everyone besides whites) helps their fellow race cheat by recycling assignments.

    This has nothing to do with race but just common sense.

    Also Larissa….paragraphs please.

  • Healthy

    Yeah I wrote that you should use paragraphs twice, that’s my typo. But seriously, paragraphs.

  • Larissa Ho

    I had intended my comment to be a short paragraph but it ended up being a lot longer. Sorry if it was difficult to read without the paragraphing.

    I agree there are a lot of Asians at U of T, including the UTM campus.

    Instead of complaining that there are more people of a different ethnic background than people of your own ethnic background at your university, why don’t you take action for your beliefs/ take a stand against the university’s exploitation of international students since you seem to be so against it.

  • Healthy

    “why don’t you take action for your beliefs/ take a stand against the university’s exploitation of international students since you seem to be so against it.”

    Isn’t that your job?

  • Larissa Ho

    I have trouble understanding why you are asking me if it is my job when you are the one complaining.

    I’d like to bring up Martin Luther King Jr.’s quote that “Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.”

    I don’t see how it’s not also your job. If you’re not willing to make positive changes according to your beliefs, then what gives you the right to complain if something is not the way you want it to be?

    Sure, you have no problem speaking up about your own beliefs. You made it clear you don’t like there being so many Asians on campus. But you have problems speaking up on behalf of others who may be exploited, oppressed, unheard, silent and voiceless…in this case, the international students, which includes many non-Canadian Asian students.

    International students, including some Asian students, are paying THREE TIMES as much as what you’re paying in tuition fees. If they weren’t paying that amount, you’d be paying far more to keep the university afloat. I think that’s the reason you won’t speak up for them. Good on you for speaking up for yourself..but I’m disappointed that you refuse to speak up for others. Speaking up on behalf of others’ rights is just as important as speaking up for your own rights, maybe more important because they don’t have the ability to make the difference like you do, and you refuse to exercise that ability….shame on you….

  • Healthy

    so just a fake journalist are we?

  • Larissa Ho

    So you think it’s my job because I’m the journalist. I think it’s important that journalism is acknowledged as an avenue for social change. but just because you’re not a journalist does not mean you have no responsibility to your fellow students at U of T. I just thought you’d step up to the plate since you seem to have an issue with the financial exploitation of international students. I was wrong.

    In closing, “we” are not “just a fake journalist.” Sorry to disappoint. There is nothing “fake” about me, whereas you continue to call yourself by a fake name.

    I’m not sure what constitutes a “fake journalist,” but you don’t have the grounds for name-calling…


  • Healthy

    Just to further my comment about you being a fake journalist, re-read your slogan at the top of the page under your logo.

    “The voice of the University of Toronto Mississauga”, yeah it’s totally my job to speak up for the students. Shame on ME? One person who doesn’t have a publication easily accessible to the student body?

    Why does my tuition partly pay for your operations if it’s my job to speak up for student issues? How dare me? How dare you for passing the buck onto your readers to conduct honest journalism.

    I’d say “shame you” but I think you already have a good supply of that.

  • Stefanie Marotta

    Larissa, this is a well written article. You did an excellent job as a student journalist: you conveyed the information and provoked some important questions.

  • Larissa Ho

    Thank you, Stefanie!:)

  • Luke

    Yeah, I’m really late to this, but I’m gonna have to go with “Healthy” not having a very healthy attitude :/

  • NL

    Yes, Larissa did write a well structured article, but well structured does not necessarily mean that it was as thought provoking as it could have been.

    Now this is being said in the spirit of constructive criticism. The fact is, writing on that Maclean’s article is a large undertaking. When one of the -isms is discussed different avenues should be considered. This includes some of the directions that Healthy considered in her/his comment to the article.

    There is a real problem at UofT; all of Canada for that matter. The problem is not Asian or white. The problem is older than Canada: what is CANADIAN. What the university lacks is a sense of what a CANADIAN university should represent. UofT is one of the more prestigious universities in Canada but it shows no sense of ‘Canada’ in its doctrine.

    It boasts multiculturalism but then uses it to discriminate. Anyone who has applied for UofT Teacher’s College knows this well. The application asks you to name your GENDER and RACE. How are either of these significant to teaching? They aren’t. They are only there to weed out those who are minorities in the teaching world. Aka: anyone who is not white or female. This way UofT can boast that it is ensuring all races are represented in the teaching workforce. How is that right? Teaching is not a mathematical formula where non-white teachers + male teachers = better educated students.

    The THEM vs. US dynamic will never be solved if we do not establish some basic rules. To be Canadian you need to know how to speak English and French. Communication is the only way that tolerance can exist.

    Is it fair to require someone to be fluent in English and know some French? Is not that the same as asking for race and gender? No. This basic rule is not some theory to improve the public appearance of a university’s college. This basic rule can benefit all of Canada, setting the foundation for a shared nationality among immigrants.