It was the moment many members of the city’s Asian community had been waiting to hear. But it was said so softly, most of them missed it.
Councillor Rob Ford apologized on Monday for his remarks that ” Orientals worked like dogs,” comments that left some deeply offended and sparked yet a new controversy surrounding the outspoken city politician.
Ford had initially refused to issue a blanket mea culpa for his statements, which came March 6th, as council debated the idea of allowing stores to open on stat holidays. But when Councillor Adam Vaughan presented Ford with a petition on Monday signed by 260 people asking for a public apology, he finally gave in – sort of.
At first Ford tried to get around it by reading his own petition, which he claims was from Asian community supporters who weren’t offended by what he maintains was a compliment. He then began by defending his use of the word “Oriental.”
“Mr. Lee wants to know [why] Oriental studies is okay, but not Oriental people,” he stated. “Someone please explain. Welcome to the faculty of Oriental studies at Oxford University, the school of Oriental and African studies at the University of London, and one of my Asian constituents brought this to my attention over the weekend, at No Frills, they’re advertising Oriental flavour, 100 per cent pure corn starch.”
Then came the sorry – again, sort of. “Asian people do work very hard, and are very, very aggressive,” he started a second time. “If I have offended anyone in the Asian community, I will proudly retract my statements.”
That still wasn’t good enough for council, especially for Vaughan. “Our responsibility is to treat citizens and taxpayers as individuals, respect their individual rights, and when we transgress their rights, we are to stand up and apologize like adults,” he lectured.
Finally, councillors voted 33-8 to force his apology. Ford stammered for a moment, tried to carry on, was reprimanded again and then very quietly said, “sorry.”
It was small comfort to those in the gallery who had originally been hurt by his comments. They not only seemed sure he wasn’t truly apologetic, but he said his ‘sorry’ so quietly, very few actually heard it come out of his mouth.