FACL responds to the Asian enrollment debate

By: December 1, 2010

Two articles have sparked controversy amongst the Asian-Canadian community

The Federation of Asian-Canadian Lawyers (FACL) has weighed in on the debate sparked by an article in the annual university rankings issue of Maclean’s about Asian-Canadian enrollment in Canadian universities.

The article — originally titled “Too Asian?” but now renamed “The enrollment controversy” —chronicles the experiences of Asian-Canadian students at Canadian universities, and examines the culture of some schools and their alleged reputations as institutions favoured by Asian-Canadian families.

A subsequent article in the Toronto Star also reports on family pressure on some Asian-Canadians to pursue certain professional degrees, and a follow-up op-ed in Maclean’s attempted to address the flood of responses the magazine received to its original story.

The FACL has responded to these articles by distributing the following statement:

The Federation of Asian Canadian Lawyers (FACL) is greatly disturbed by the articles appearing in Maclean’s (“Too Asian?”) and the Toronto Star (“Asian students suffering for success…”) on November 10, 2010. These articles portray Asians, regardless of place of origin, as taking over Canadian universities and negatively altering the character of these institutions. Moreover, the article is particularly myopic because it fails to recognize the damaging impact on the larger issues of racism and stereotyping.

FACL is a diverse coalition of Asian Canadian legal professionals whose purpose is to promote equity, justice, and opportunity for Asian Canadian legal professionals and the Asian community. As such, our membership has serious concerns about the impact of the articles on Asian-Canadians and on ethnic dynamics in Canada.

The articles are a throwback to earlier generation headlines of the “Yellow Peril” and CTV’s W-5 episode “Campus Giveaway.” Today, Maclean’s and the Star are suggesting that Asians are not only moving here, they are taking over institutions. The reality, however, is quite different. The assertions of high numbers of Asians in universities are inconsistent with reality and are not borne out in many faculties. Take for example, the legal profession, which requires a university degree. The Law Society of Upper Canada conducted a report on racialization of lawyers in Ontario. The report shows only 7.9% of all lawyers in Ontario are Asian compared to an overwhelming 87.5% of lawyers who are white.

What makes these articles particularly repugnant is that stereotyping communities is used as a journalist technique. They stir up the pot and at the same time Maclean’s absolves itself of responsibility by arguing that it is merely recording criticisms that are attributed to others. Stereotyping is destructive; it makes people suspicious of each other and creates conflict among ethno-cultural groups. The media then scurries behind the veil of so-called objectivity and neutrality which they frame as “responsible journalism.”

To borrow from Premier Jean Charest in his letter to Maclean’s in September 2010 in which Quebec was described as “The Most Corrupt Province in Canada”, this article is a “sensationalist feature” and it has neither met any of the basic standards of journalism nor demonstrated responsible journalism.

FACL supports the efforts of the Canadian Chinese National Council and university students across Canada to boycott products of Maclean’s parent company, Rogers Communications (including Omni TV) and of the Star and its holdings (including Sing Tao Newspaper). Maclean’s and the Star have bitten the hands that feed them. Maclean’s has lost credibility as a national publication and as the print voice of Canada. The Toronto Star, as the newspaper in the world’s most diverse city, has tarnished its own reputation.

Yours very truly,
Anna Wong
Member – Federation of Asian Canadian Lawyers, Advocacy & Policy Committee
(647) 987-2597

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