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Mike Layton asks Toronto Council to condemn Too Asian? article in Maclean's

Mike Layton, son of Jack Layton and a new Toronto councillor, has asked City Council to condemn an article in MacLean's.

Peter Power/The Globe and Mail/Peter Power/The Globe and Mail

Is Too Asian? too offensive for Toronto City Council?

More than a month after Maclean's published a story with that provocative headline, two freshmen politicians are calling on council to "disassociate itself" from the article and demand a formal apology from the magazine.

The motion is the first to be moved by Councillor Mike Layton, son of federal NDP Leader Jack Layton and stepson of NDP MP Olivia Chow, who has tabled her own motion in the House of Commons asking Maclean's to atone for the story.

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"There were many people in this city offended by that article," Mr. Layton said. "I think it's important the city and its leaders step up and say, 'Well, no. We respect our people in the city of Toronto and we don't agree with statements like that or the use of headlines to sensationalize the issue to the point that it offends people.' "

Mr. Layton will need the support of two-thirds of council's 45 members to get the motion on the floor at Thursday's meeting, the first business session since Mayor Rob Ford took office Dec. 1.

The mayor's office would not comment directly on the motion. "But there are a lot bigger priorities to focus on right now, like keeping our roads safe," said Adrienne Batra, the mayor's press secretary.

One of Mr. Ford's lieutenants derided the motion as a waste of time.

"We would never get any city business done if we were chasing down articles that offended one councillor or another," said Denzil Minnan-Wong, a Canadian-born councillor whose father immigrated from China.

First published online Nov. 10 as part of the magazine's annual university rankings issue, the article probed whether some students are avoiding elite postsecondary schools because the institutions are perceived as "too Asian" - so academically demanding they don't leave time for partying.

The article makes no mention of Toronto council or any part of the municipal government.

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Maclean's has since changed the Web headline to The Enrolment Controversy, and published an editorial praising Canadian universities for their merit-based admittance policies.

"One final note about the headline," the editorial concluded. "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 city of Victoria adopted a similar motion last month and Vancouver was slated to vote Tuesday on condemning the article.

Rookie Councillor Kristyn Wong-Tam seconded Mr. Layton's motion. Ms. Wong-Tam, a past president of the Toronto chapter of the Chinese Canadian National Council, was one of a handful of protesters who in 2008 laid on the floor outside Mr. Ford's office to demand he apologize for saying, "Those Oriental people work like dogs. … They're slowly taking over."

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