With Rob Ford in the mayor's chair, you might think that the days of cloying political correctness at city hall are over. It would appear not. Mike Layton, son of Jack, has made his first mark with a proposal so PC that it would have looked ridiculous even in the salad days of David Miller's administration.
Mr. Layton, the freshman councillor for Ward 19, Trinity-Spadina, proposes to consume valuable time at the new city council's very first business meeting with a demand for an apology from Maclean's magazine. Seconded by Kristyn Wong-Tam of Ward 27, Toronto Centre-Rosedale, his motion recommends that "Toronto City Council disassociate itself from the views expressed by Maclean's in its article entitled 'Too Asian?' and request that Maclean's apologize unreservedly for the negative stereotyping of the Asian-Canadian community."
Why city council needs to dissociate itself from an article that has nothing to do with the government of the city of Toronto is a mystery. Equally puzzling is why Mr. Layton thinks it is the business of council to go around issuing motions of censure against the press.
It would be one thing if Maclean's had issued a rant against non-white immigration or a diatribe against foreign students. What it reports instead is that Asian students at certain Canadian universities are so diligent and so successful that some white students are daunted - so daunted that they are avoiding those universities as "too Asian" and seeking schools with a less demanding atmosphere. It is a much-discussed issue at U.S. universities, and Maclean's simply explores whether it is happening here.
The magazine later explained in an editorial that it did not intend to insult anyone with its "Too Asian?" headline, much less to suggest that universities should restrict admission of students from any ethnic origin. "Merit should be the sole criteria for entrance to higher education in Canada, and universities should always give preference to our best and brightest regardless of cultural background," it wrote. Just to make sure the article was not further misinterpreted, Maclean's changed the headline on the online version.
Never mind all that, though: Mr. Layton finds it (what else?) "offensive." His motion calls on city council to "reinforce the rights of any student to attend post-secondary education without limitation" - a right that no one, including the editor of Maclean's, is challenging.
The City of Toronto, his motion patiently explains to those of us too dim to see the need for it, has been a leader in "building a society in which everyone has the right to live in conditions of dignity, respect and peace." As a founding member of the Canadian Coalition of Municipalities Against Racism and Discrimination, Toronto "has pledged to speak out against incidents of racism and discrimination."
In case anyone is still wondering why he is asking Toronto City Council to vote on a magazine article, his motion notes that one of the universities named in the Maclean's piece is the University of Toronto. Ah, well then.
Mr. Layton and Ms. Wong-Tam come from a milieu where taking offence comes as naturally as breathing. In their circles, no doubt, everyone thinks the Maclean's article was an outrage. Being a city councillor requires a different sensibility. They are not activists any more; they are democratic representatives. The people they represent have bigger things on their minds than a provocative magazine headline.