Community responds to maclean’s racist “Too Asian?” article

A Call to End Anti-Asian Racism
November 18, 2010

We, the undersigned, believe that the articles published by the Maclean’s newsmagazine and the Toronto Star newspaper on November 10, 2010, worked to racially profile and stereotype Asian Canadians as perpetual foreigners in Canada. They also reinforced anti-Asian resentment and antagonism by raising anxieties over Canada’s changing demographics and China’s emergence as a global power. Both media outlets generated ‘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 damaging and violent impact of racial stereotyping and antagonism are far-reaching, not just in the realms of media, education, workplace, and the society at large, but also to the targeted 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 reinforce and manifest in anti-Asian government policies 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 news television series W5 portrayed ‘oriental foreign students’ as taking over Canadian educational institutions. We therefore see Maclean’s and the Toronto Star as reinforcing a long and deeply ingrained history of racial anxiety and profiling that have led to the oppression and exclusion of Asian Canadians.

The media’s racial distinction of ‘us’ versus ‘them’ works within a troubling understanding of Canada in which whites or people 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 other communities of colour, such as Aboriginal, African, Caribbean, Latin American, and Middle Eastern people, 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 also continue to portray Asian Canadians in homogeneous ways and fail to account for the differences within the group. They do not distinguish among Asians who are international students, newcomer immigrants, or Canadian-born citizens. They do not report on the varying educational conditions of Asian Canadians based on class, gender, and language. They lump Asians together regardless if their ancestral background is from 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 see the structural roots of the academic and social struggles of many Asian Canadian students. They also missed seeing how community groups are addressing barriers that hinder their pathways for genuine settlement, integration, and wellbeing in this country.

Although Asian Canadians have borne the brunt of racist government policies, media portrayals, and public opinions, they also have been actively recruited for their labour and money. Their labour has been crucial in the development of Canada, ranging from the construction of the railways in the late 1800s to the live-in care of children and the elderly within the past 25 years. Their financial resources are keenly sought after, as economic migrants who could bring investment and entrepreneurial capital and as international students whose high tuition fees help compensate for the government’s inadequate funding of public education. Many Canadian universities aggressively outreach and recruit students from Asia. In fact, 15 presidents of Canadian universities traveled to India this month to enhance Canada’s profile in the global knowledge economy.

As such, Asian Canadians are trapped in a perpetual racist contradiction: they are both wanted and unwanted in Canada. So long as they provide labour, money, and expertise, they are wanted. However, when they assert their right to full humanity and genuine integration in Canada, they confront exclusion.

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

Therefore, we demand that Macleans’ and Toronto Star:
•         Must give a comprehensive public apology.
•         Must engage in public consultations to address racial profiling and stereotyping in their media outlets.
•         Must implement measurable corporate and editorial anti-racism policies in consultation with relevant community constituents, and must publish the results annually.
•         Must implement employment equity programs to diversify its editorial and frontline personnel.

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 campus climate surveys of racialized students, staff, and faculty.
•         Must establish advocacy and support offices for racialized students, staff, and faculty.

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2010-2011 Film Lecture Series

film lecture series – final

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An Open Letter to the Right Honourable Stephen Harper

Dear Prime Minister:

Re:       Stop the Attack on Employment Equity

As Canadians who believe in a discrimination-free society, we are writing to express our grave concerns regarding recent comments made by the Hon. Stockwell Day, President of the Treasury Board, who insinuated that the Federal Employment Equity program is barring qualified Canadians from job opportunities in the federal public service. 

We are equally dismayed by similar comments made by the Hon. Jason Kenney, Minister of Citizenship, Immigration and Multiculturalism, who stated that all Canadians should have an equal opportunity to work for their government based on merit, regardless of race or ethnicity, as if to suggest that unmerited candidates from racialized communities are taking over the jobs of qualified white candidates, thanks to affirmative action.

The truth, as you are well aware, is the opposite.  Employment equity guarantees merit-based hiring because it removes artificial barriers to employment.  All too often, qualified candidates from racialized communities do not get hired because of their race or ethnicity. Continue reading

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Asian Canadian Labour Alliance Shows Solidarity with Tamil Refugees

The Asian Canadian Labour Alliance (Ontario Chapter) strongly supports the right to status for the recently arrived Tamil refugees. These Tamil refugees like many others have arrived on our shores to escape the horrors of a civil war, as well as surviving countless crimes against humanity as committed by the Sri Lankan state. They deserve every right to residency as has been provided to others. ACLA deplores the rampant racist and xenophobic response that has accompanied the arrival of this most recent group of migrants. Spurred by a Federal Government that has scapegoated migrants and immigrants implemented a series of draconian immigration reforms that criminalize communities , we strongly urge labour unions, community groups and the general public to counteract the hysteria that is resonating in numerous quarters across Canada. These are not criminals, nor are they human smugglers; they are in search of starting a new life. As the refugees so eloquently state themselves:
“we have undergone severe hardships with very little or no access to basic necessities, such as food, water, sleeping space, medicine and sanitary facilities. We have traveled for almost four months with much suffering and pain. We have come here, to this country Canada, to protect ourselves and our family members from the murders, disappearances and violence that still exist in our native country.”
We urge compassion for the numerous communities who continue to arrive on our shores. Our history is filled with numerous other communities who while arriving to Canada faced a backlash from ‘Canadians’ of European descent in the past, the same descendants of immigrants from previous generations.  Whether they arrived today on the MV Sun Sea, the Ocean Lady, to the Komagata Maru, or other ships that brought migrants from South Asia and China, a consistent theme of exclusion has persisted with the arrival of numerous communities.  The important historical lesson of tolerance, restraint and civility has not been reserved for racialized communities.  Instead they have been met with resistance, hostility and hatred.
History books attribute the resistance to migrants due to mob mentality, an unwillingness to accept others something that has happened in the past never to be repeated. However, as we currently grapple with the latest arrivals,  ACLA views today’s’ events as not an exception to the Canadian state’s practices but part in parcel of the same racist and xenophobic immigration laws that denies admission to countless people daily. Coupled with trade policies that favour the ravaging of the natural resources of the Global South, the protectionism that is being exhibited by numerous commentators who are demanding the deportation of these Tamil migrants must be reminded they have arrived on our shores because of a dual Canadian Foreign Policy which has been silent on genocide while loudly advocating for the liberalizing of Sri Lankan markets to foreign investors.  
While we urge compassion for the Tamil migrants, we demand justice, justice in the face of repressive immigration laws that deny residency and divides communities into arbitrary and divisive categories. We demand justice against the practices of neo liberalism and economic restructuring which has resulted in the privatization, downloading of services and the loss of livelihood of thousands of people in Sri Lanka; We demand justice for all those who suffered from the ravages of war, and the repressive violent practices of the Sri Lankan government which has resulted in the deaths of tens of thousands.

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Justice for Suresh


The Asian Canadian Labour Alliance  (ACLA) echoes the sentiments of numerous community organizations that have raised their concerns regarding the extradition process against Mr. Suresh Sriskandarajah.  ACLA strongly opposes the efforts by the Canadian judiciary and our elected representatives to extradite Mr. Sriskandarajah to the United States. In the current climate where individuals, groups and communities have faced an unprecedented affront from the Federal Government, the actions undertaken by the Harper government in this particular case reinforces the criminalization that has been undertaken against particular racialized communities.

Our concern reaches beyond the scope of the cries for justice in this specific case to the wider discriminatory pattern how arbitrary anti-terrorist laws have been enacted on individuals and communities thus denying these individuals rights and liberties on both sides of the border. In a time period where numerous individuals have been unfairly targeted by both Canadian and American officials, ACLA cautions against any action that leads to Mr. Sriskandarahah becoming another victim in a long line of men and women who have been unfairly accused of terrorist activity.

In all accounts Mr. Sriskandarajah has shown an unyielding devotion and passion to the rebuilding of Sri Lanka, specifically areas devastated by the Tsunami of 2006, a disaster that resulted in the deaths of thousands of individuals and economic damages amounting to hundreds of millions of dollars. From the information provided to our organization it seems that his individual action has benefited countless people who were impacted by this catastrophe. Where on one side Canada lauds the efforts of individuals who undertake humanitarian efforts overseas, rather than persecute him, every effort should be made to laud his extraordinary contributions for the betterment of humanity.  ACLA reiterates the calls for justice for Suresh; that Mr. Sriskandarajah should not be extradited to the United States and also that all charges against him should be dropped.

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2010 Toronto Municipal Elections: Racialized Candidates Forum

Over 50 community members gathered together on July 13, 2010 to hear from 4 racialized candidates running for City Council in the 2010 Toronto Municipal Elections.  The event was co-hosted by ACLA, CBTU and LATUC featured Kristyn Wong-Tam (Ward 27), Cadigia Ali (Ward 2), Neethan Shan (Ward 42) and Karen Sun (Ward 19).

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ACLA Joins Press Conference Re: G20

Release G20 ‘political

prisoners’: rights groups

Last Updated: Monday, July 5, 2010 | 3:13 PM ET Comments71Recommend41

The Canadian Press

Civil rights groups say mass detentions during the G20 summit were an abuse of power. (CBC)

The mass detention of people and widespread use of police force over the G20 summit weekend was a gross abuse of state power that demands an independent inquiry and the immediate release of “political prisoners,” a civil-rights coalition said Monday.

Continue reading

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Statement from the Asian Canadian Labour Alliance (ACLA)- Ontario Chapter

In the wake of one of the most grotesque public expressions of police brutality, intimidation and mass violations of civil liberties, the Asian Canadian Labour Alliance (ACLA) strongly condemns the overzealous actions of the Metropolitan Toronto Police Force, the Integrated Security Unit and the countless other police agencies that participated in the suppression of protesters rights during the G20 protests.
The actions exhibited by the police and their supervisors are unconscionable. The police force collectively as well as the individual officers involved, their superiors and elected officials from all levels of Government must be held accountable.
By all accounts the over $1 billion price tag was utilized to bring fear and disorder to our communities.
While we abhor this weekend’s police violence, ACLA reiterates that these actions reflect the realities experienced by low-income, indigenous, and racialized communities across this city on a daily basis.
Illegal searches, entries without warrants, large-scale police and immigration raids, the use of excessive and arbitrary police powers are ongoing experiences of our communities, perpetuated through unjust socio-economic structures and institutions that at the same time exploit the labour of indigenous and racialized communities.  Instead of addressing chronic underfunding, inadequate resources and systemic unemployment that impoverishes our members, the police and elected officials persist in marginalizing and criminalizing our communities.
The resolve of the G20 will deepen this crisis through its focus on deficit and debt reduction and not on economic and environmental justice. Regressive and racist immigration policies, inadequate labour protection and the absence of resources for housing, day care, healthcare and numerous other entitlements further perpetuate a cycle of precarious existence for racialized communities across the city, the province and the country.
We say NO to the neo-liberal agenda of austerity by the G8 and we call on all progressive labour unions, community groups and activists to demand justice and dignity for those detained, arrested and an end to civil rights violations.
We demand that the following steps be taken:

1) The immediate release of all political prisoners

2) An end to the criminalization of dissent with compensation for all victims of police violence

3) Meaningful economic resources and infrastructure to be invested in marginalized communities

4) An end to the persecution and criminalization of Aboriginal, migrant communities and non- status communities

5) Independent Police Oversight, community control over policing and civilian authority over the police.

6) An independent public inquiry into police actions during the summit, including disclosure on the role of police infiltrators leading up to and during events, and the chain of command for the extraordinary crackdown on legal rights and protests. Firm timelines must be established.

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G20 People’s March

Police Line on Richmond closing in


Riot police facing a peaceful protester


Listening to People's Speech


ACLA members pose for a picture


ACLA members pose for another picture while in the march



ACLA members marching


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10th Year Anniversary Celebration


On June 9, over 60 people came together to celebrate the 10 Year Anniversary of the Asian Canadian Labour Alliance.  The theme of the celebration centered on resistance and solidarity.

There were many elements to the evening featuring live painting, guest speakers, film clips, food and much more.

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