Montreal

Asian Quebecers denounce racist depictions in classroom materials

Two different worksheets with offensive Asian stereotypes were used in French-language programs at the Université du Québec à Trois-Rivières and the Centre Louis-Jolliet, an adult learning centre in Quebec City.

Worksheets were used in French-language programs at UQTR, Centre Louis-Jolliet in Quebec City

Jimmy Chan, president of the Chan Associations in Montreal, said excerpts of worksheets from two language classes, which were circulating online, are racist and discriminatory towards Asian people. He wants the province to create a program to educate people about different cultures in Quebec. (CBC)

This story contains an image and descriptions of offensive stereotypes.

Excerpts of worksheets depicting racist stereotypes about Asian people that were used in Quebec government-funded French-language courses are sparking outrage, after images of the materials were circulated online. 

The two different worksheets were used in francisation classes at the École internationale de français of the Université du Québec à Trois-Rivières (UQTR) and the Centre Louis-Jolliet, an adult learning centre in Quebec City. One includes a text with an offensive stereotype about Chinese cuisine, while the other shows a caricature of an Asian person.

"This is not right, this is discrimination, this is racism," said Jimmy Chan, president of the Chan Associations in Montreal. 

The grammar worksheet sent home to students at the Centre Louis-Jolliet shows a cartoon of an Asian man in traditional dress, with the description: "He has small eyes."

According to a statement from the Centre de services scolaire de la Capitale, neither the school nor the service centre produced the worksheet.

"In this case we understand that it was the initiative of a teacher," said Vanessa Déziel, spokesperson for the service centre, in an email. 

Though teachers are allowed to choose their own pedagogical material, the service centre said the caricature appeared to be from a few years ago and "open to interpretation." 

"We are making sure to sensitize our teachers at the Centre Louis-Jolliet to ensure that their tools are neutral," the statement said.

A worksheet shows a fictional conversation between two characters, one of whom says they don't like Chinese food because they, "don't eat cat." The worksheet was recently pulled from a website for students taking courses at the international French language school of the Université du Québec à Trois-Rivières (UQTR). (Facebook)

Chinese cuisine mocked

The UQTR worksheet shows text from conversation between two characters, one of whom criticizes the food of various cultures. Asked whether they like Chinese cuisine, the character responds, "Are you joking? I don't eat cat."

CBC has not seen the full worksheet, but confirmed that it was available to students online until very recently. 

In a statement, the university said the sheet was taken out of context, as it was intended to portray a character who was profoundly ignorant of the culinary habits of various cultures.

"Obviously, a reply from a caricature in a narrative text does not reflect the values of the instructor…or of the university," said UQTR spokesperson Jean-François Hinse in an email. 

"We apologize for the discomfort that this publication may have caused."

The statement said in light of the comments the university has received about the worksheet, the instructor has removed it from a website where it was available to students.

Chef Steven Wong, owner of Restaurant Wong in Quebec City, says the offensive stereotype referenced in the worksheet is not innocuous and should not be normalized. 

"Today, we still get calls at our restaurant of people asking either joking or seriously if we serve cat or dog," said Wong. 

Serena Zhang, president of the Young Chinese Professionals Association, said governments and schools must do a better job of "educating the population with the right messaging."

"These changes will not be instantaneous…as education is a long term process," Zhang said in an email. "However, we are confident that our society will evolve towards the right direction."

Zhang pointed to Asian Heritage month in May as a good opportunity to "recognize and appreciate" the contributions of the Asian community.

Jimmy Chan, meanwhile, is calling for the province to create a program to educate people about different cultures in Quebec. 

"We do not need racism continuing for generations to come," he said.

With files from Rowan Kennedy

now