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Maclean's no longer worthy of public funding, senator says

Heritage Minister James Moore speaks to reporters about his NHL rooting interests before Question Period in Ottawa on May 3, 2010.

Sean Kilpatrick/Sean Kilpatrick/The Canadian Press

A Canadian senator is asking the federal government to revoke federal subsidies to Maclean's magazine over an article on university enrolment that focused on Asian-Canadian students.

In a letter to Heritage Minister James Moore, Senator Vivienne Poy says the public outcry over the article is enough to justify axing $1.5-million in funds for the national news weekly. She said periodicals that contain offensive content, "defined as material that is denigrating to an identifiable group," can be deemed ineligible for federal support. She also mentions Maclean's articles about corruption in Quebec and about Islamic groups that have raised the ire of some readers.

"It has offended large portions of the Canadian population through its divisive journalism," Ms. Poy writes. "As such … it should no longer be deemed worthy of public funding by Canadian Heritage."

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Her intervention follows a vote by Toronto city council this week to demand an apology from the magazine. Victoria and Vancouver city councils have also passed similar motions.

Maclean's has said it did not intend to cause offence with the article, which was published in November's annual university rankings issue. It was originally given the headline "Too Asian?," which has since been changed on the magazine's website to "The Enrolment Controversy." In its defence the magazine points out that the headline "Too Asian?" was phrased as a question and taken from a report referred to in the article.

In a statement Friday, Maclean's said, "We disagree with the Senator's characterization of our journalism."

A month after the article first appeared, critics continue to agitate against Maclean's and its parent company, Rogers.

Organizers have begun distributing 12,500 buttons with the words "Too Asian for Maclean's" and "Too Asian for Rogers." Protests are being organized at the University of Toronto, the University of Victoria, McMaster University and Ryerson University, according to Brad Lee, who created a Facebook page as a venue for criticism. He said his page received more than 17,000 hits in the last 24 hours, and more than 100 groups have endorsed a letter opposing anti-Asian racism.

"As Canadians we strongly believe in freedom of the press," he said. "As taxpayers we don't want our money spent on a media outlet that misrepresents us."

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Demographics Reporter

Joe Friesen writes about immigration, population, culture and politics. He was previously the Globe's Prairie bureau chief. More

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