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Asian Quebecers condemn French-language programs for offensive classroom material

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Asian-Canadians are condemning two Quebec French-language programs after course material containing offensive stereotypes was distributed to students.

Jimmy Chan, president of the Chan Association of Montreal, said he was stunned upon laying eyes on the worksheets, one of them referencing a stereotype about Asian cuisine and the other featuring an Asian caricature.

“It’s crazy. It’s really disturbing,” he told CTV News.

At the École internationale de français of the Université du Québec in Trois-Rivières (UQTR), students were given a worksheet containing an offensive stereotype about Chinese cuisine.

In text depicting a conversation between two people, one character is asked whether they like Chinese food, to which they reply, “Are you kidding me? I don’t eat cat.”

“This is no respect for other people’s culture,” said Chan in reference to the worksheet.

But according to the UQTR, images of the document — which circulated on social media and were first reported on by CBC News — are being taken out of context.

“It is an excerpt from a discussion between two fictional characters, where one of them presents great ignorance about culinary habits in different cultures,” said spokesperson Jean-François Hinse in an email.

Hinse said the school is nevertheless removing the text from the website where it was made available to students.

“We apologize for any discomfort this publication may have caused,” he said.

Critics were also disturbed by another depiction handed out at a different school.

At the Centre Louis-Jolliet, a Quebec City adult learning centre, students were given a worksheet featuring a cartoon of an Asian man in a straw hat, accompanied by the words “He has small eyes.”

Bryant Chang, vice president of the Chinese Association of Montreal, says depictions like these only fuel anti-Asian racism, which had already surged during the COVID-19 pandemic.

“My initial reaction was shock,” he said.

“This shouldn’t be taught in schools.”

The Centre Louis-Jolliet did not respond to a request for comment in time for publication.

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Both Chan and Chang said the solution to these types of depictions is education.

Chan said Quebec should implement special measures to teach high school and college students about different cultures.

“The way they dress, the way they eat, the traditions — can they create something like that? That is the only solution, to educate people,” he said.

For Chang, special care should be paid to instructors to teach them about cultural sensitivity.

“The educators should themselves be educated.”

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