It happened Wednesday night as City Hall debated a plan to allow stores to open on stat holidays. The proposal was eventually defeated but not before Councillor Rob Ford got up to speak his mind.

By the time he was done, the chamber was in an uproar and demands were being made for Ford to apologize. What, exactly, did he say? It appears Ford wanted to talk about how Toronto’s Asian community was expanding and doing well in the city. But it didn’t quite come out that way.

You can judge his comments for yourself with this excerpt from his impassioned statement before his fellow councillors.

“Those Oriental people work like dogs. They work their hearts out. They are workers non-stop. They sleep beside their machines. That’s why they’re successful in life. I went to Seoul, South Korea, I went to Taipei, Taiwan. I went to Tokyo, Japan. That’s why these people are so hard workers (sic). I’m telling you, the Oriental people, they’re slowly taking over.”

The comments have provoked outrage, with Mayor David Miller leading the call for him to publicly apologize for his comments. “They’re absolutely unacceptable,” he insists. “We’re one of the most diverse cities in the world. We don’t stereotype people by their racial or ethnic background … And it’s wrong and elected officials should know better.”

“He should apologize publicly.”

But while Ford is willing to allow a blanket mea culpa to any Asians he may have offended, he won’t bow down to Miller’s request.

“If it was taken out of context, then I want to explain the whole story. Just to get up and apologize for the sake of apologizing when you pay a community a compliment because the mayor tells you to, no, I don’t take my marching orders from the mayor.  I take my marching orders from the taxpayers.”

Ford notes that many of his constituents have written him letters of support. 

“I don’t see a big deal in your comments. It sounds very complimentary,” Ford read from a print of an email.

So how do Asians feel about it?

The few that CityNews spoke to seemed to take offence.

“It is very ignorant because we live the same way as everyone does,” one notes.

“It’s supposed lto be like a compliment, but somehow the way he phrases it is somewhat offensive,” another adds.