By BK Munn
Andy Donato has been hacking out listless, uninspired, cliche, sometimes hateful cartoons for the Toronto Sun for decades now. Mostly retired, he still manages to shit out the occasional turdbomb, like the cartoon above about Toronto mayoral candidate Olivia Chow. In case you can’t tell from Donato’s attempt, the gist is that the Hong Kong-born Chow, depicted here as a slant-eyed Chairman Mao, is riding on the coattails of her deceased husband, NDP leader Jack Layton. (Nobody has any idea why the skateboard is there and why it appears to come from another dimension where you can see the top and bottom of flat things at the same time. Likewise, no-one has been able to figure out what the “PW” inside the collar of the jacket stands for.) You really have to go back to World War Two propaganda cartoons demonizing the Japanese to find something as toxic and amateurish in the history of Canadian political cartooning.
The cartoon was posted on the eve of the election and immediately drew outrage. It is not currently viewable on the Sun’s website, unlike most of Donato’s cartoons.
Chow, who came in third in Monday’s vote, behind Doug Ford (brother of Rob) and mayor-elect (and Toronto Sun endorsee) John Tory, talked about the cartoon in an interview on local tv news channel CP24, noting that the cartoon’s depiction of her says that “because I am Chinese-Canadian, I must be a communist and have slanted eyes and glasses … and since I am a woman, I must be inferior and therefore not good enough for the job of the mayor so I must rely on my deceased husband. So it is both racist and sexist.”
The Huffington Post and Yahoo! News have picked up on the story as well, but most of the criticism has come through social media like Facebook and Twitter, with prominent cultural critic Jeet Heer leading the charge. Heer has tweeted extensively about the cartoon and even wrote to Postmedia president and CEO Paul Godfrey, whose company recently purchased the Sun chain, and elicited a short response, posted on Heer’s blog, advising readers to “smile and move on”:
“Donato is neither racist or sexist. I know that because I worked with him for almost 16 years […] People who enter all forms of public life may from time to time not like what a cartoonist produces. I do not believe he crossed the line of good taste on this cartoon.”
As Heer notes, Godfrey will soon be in charge of most of the newspapers in Canada. He goes on to reflect that “Godfrey’s response precludes idea that racism/sexism are systematic and not just acts of bad people. Godfrey further says cartoon does not even cross line of good taste. Also that affirms Donato’s centrality to Sun franchise. There’s been a lot of discussion of white privilege, which incoming Toronto mayor denies exists. One way to define [the] problem: white privilege is major newspaper running that cartoon & corporate owners not seeing a problem with it.”
Although most of Donato’s colleagues in the Canadian media stand mute on the subject, some on Twitter have proposed filing complaints with The Ontario Press Council. I have been unable to find any information on any ombudsman position at the Sun similar to the Public Editor reader advocate position at the Toronto Star or Globe and Mail. The Toronto Sun contact page, including editor emails, is here.
[Addendum: Apparently the Sun and Post are not members of the Ontario Press Council and ignore its edicts. But there is now a petition addressed to Sun EIC Wendy Metcalfe.]