Letter to McLean’s re: “Too Asian”

November 28, 2010

Cathrin Bradbury
Editor-in Chief and General Manager
Roger Publishing Limited
1 Mount Pleasant Road, 11th floor
Toronto, Ontario
M4Y 2Y5

Dear Ms. Bradbury:

Re:  “Too Asian”

The National Association of Japanese Canadians is concerned about the ideas expressed in the article “Too Asian” in the Maclean’s November 2010 issue on University Rankings.

The article not only stereotypes both Asian and non-Asian university students but also perpetuates the attitude of an “us” versus “them” distinction – raising anxieties over the changing demographics of Canada.  In fact the racist stereotyping is a very disturbing reminder for Japanese Canadians of the time before and after World War II when the Government of Canada summarily condemned all Japanese Canadians living in BC as “enemy aliens”, without a shred of evidence to support such slander.  In fact about two-thirds of Japanese Canadians were either Canadian born or naturalized Canadian citizens. Such racist attitudes, fed by politicians and with the active complicity of much of the media had immediate and dire consequences for Japanese Canadians.  The Maclean’s article constitutes a serious setback in creating a truly free and equitable society, leaving many sadly wondering whether the media as represented by Maclean’s have learned nothing about the insidious nature of racism in all its evil manifestations and effects.

Another aspect that was troubling about the article, was the way in which Asian Canadians were perceived to be a homogeneous group. The article stereotypes Asian Canadians as being focused on their academic studies, to the detriment of their social interactions within a broader campus life.

Asians may be Canadian-born citizens, recent immigrants or international students.  Within that group, there is varying ethnicity, class, gender and language – all of which affect the Asian students’ ability to integrate into the educational system and into Canadian culture generally.

It would have been more responsible for Maclean’s to have a discussion on diversity and ways in which to develop healthy intercultural relationships between students from a variety of racial, cultural, economic and social backgrounds. Universities should be places where students from all cultures – Asians, Aboriginal, Middle Eastern, African, Latin American and European are welcomed and encouraged to interact and learn from each other.  UBC president, Stephen Toope recognizes the importance “to create mechanisms, programs and opportunities for people to interact.  A university is one of the places that has the greatest capacity to work through demographic change.”

Education is seen to be the route to wider career and other opportunities in mainstream society.  It is no surprise that many Asian parents, particularly new immigrant parents, are willing to financially support their children going to universities focused on strong academic reputations. Access to education is a fundamental human right and all students, no matter their ancestry, ethnicity, sex or religion should be allowed admission to university based on merit.  It may be a surprise to some Canadians that Chinese and South Asian Canadians were not allowed to vote until 1947, and in the case of Japanese Canadians, 1949.  Up to that point, as a result of this restriction, Asians were not allowed to become lawyers, pharmacists, architects, chartered accountants or teachers.  During World War II, Japanese Canadian university students were forced to leave their studies because of the internment and their forced removal from the West coast.  Thankfully, the educational institutional doors are now wide open…and must remain so based on students meeting the merit-based admission requirements.

Maclean’s owes all Asian Canadians an apology.  The article also illustrates the need for Maclean’s to implement and publish an anti-racism editorial policy and to find ways in which to effectively dialogue with racialized communities.

We look forward to hearing a response to our letter.



Ken Noma                                                  Lillian Nakamura Maguire

President, NAJC                                     Chair, Human Rights Committee, NAJC




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