10/02/2014 06:32 EDT | Updated 12/02/2014 05:59 EST

Olivia Chow confronts racism, sexism in mayoral campaign

Olivia Chow says she's still angry one day after a mayoral debate was marred by a prejudicial remark though, she notes, it's not the first time she's been attacked because of her gender or ethnicity. 

Wednesday night's debate in Corso Italia put Chow on the offensive when an audience member posed a somewhat rambling question that appeared to suggest her personal history as an immigrant had some bearing on her qualifications to be mayor. 

"How dare he bring up that I'm an immigrant into the debate. I find it was just offensive," she told CBC News on Thursday. 

She was also told to go "back to China" by a man at an earlier debate. 

But those remarks pale in comparison to the racist and sexist invective that accumulates about Chow online — on Twitter, her Facebook page and elsewhere. 

"It's pretty nasty stuff," she said. "This city is full of good people but there are some that are racist and hateful."

"If I'm too tough I'm seen as bitchy," she added, though that sort of sexism counters the racist stereotype that "Asian women are supposed to be gentle."

​Coun. Kristyn Wong-Tam, who is running for re-election in Ward 27, says she has also been attacked over her gender and sexual orientation. She says she knew Chow's run for mayor would be difficult, in part because she speaks with an accent. 

"But so do many, many other Torontonians," Wong-Tam said. "Somehow the criticism of Olivia seems to be on her leadership style, her gender, her race and her personal being as opposed to her policies."

Wong-Tam said mayoral candidates John Tory and Doug Ford haven't done enough to mute the unwarranted criticism of Chow. 

"What is surprising to me is that the other mayoral candidates are not shooting it down right away."