A glossy brochure criticizing School District 43 for its long-running Confucius Institute language and culture classes has landed in mail boxes across the Tri-Cities.
Calling for closure of the program, now called the Chinese Language and Culture Institute, the 16-page brochure urges residents to contact Port Moody, Port Coquitlam, Coquitlam, as well as Anmore and Belcarra trustees by phone or email.
It’s not clear who authored and distributed the critical brochure, which directs concerned parents and residents of Greater Vancouver to reach out to email@example.com; however, the Tri-City News has spoken to a Coquitlam couple who says they are part of a group of residents behind the brochure.
Ryan Moffat— who appeared as a delegation before Coquitlam council in June along with Cathy Tan arguing against the Confucius Institute — told the Tri-City News he worked with a loosely-organized group of concerned citizens in the Tri-Cities to produce the brochure.
“This information is so people can assess it and make an independent decision about what to do,” said Moffatt, who said his role in the production of the process was to help out with proofing, his wife, Cathy, who was born in China, had a greater role, while donations paid for the cost of the brochure.
Moffatt said with one child in Grade 2 in School District 43, and another in pre-school, he wanted to be be sure that Tri-City residents had information about the school district’s Confucius Institute.
“What I really want to make sure is that my kids are critical thinkers and have a full set of facts. Maybe one of the rationals for the brochure is so people can make up their own minds.”
The brochure also refers readers to the documentary "In the Name of Confucius," made by producer and director Doris Liu, which is available to watch on Vimeo.
FalunTV also offers the documentary, along with a collection of films, documentaries and videos related to Falun Gong and the persecution of the practice by the Chinese Communist Party.
In previous communication, Liu told the Tri-City News she is aware she might be labeled a member of the Falun Gong, but stated in her email that doesn’t “discredit my work or shrug away the criticisms surrounding the CI that Coquitlam SD 43 should face squarely.”
She’s also skeptical of Chinese government efforts to distance the Confucius Institute from Chinese-government control, stating a new arrangement with a Chinese university doesn’t eliminate government ties and School District 43 is still obtaining money and support for its culture and language programs.
“The purpose for the Chinese government to create these two new organizations is to shift the world wide criticism of the close ties between the CI’s and the Chinese government,” said Liu in a previous interview with The News.
Recently, trustees were asked to consider an independent review of SD43’s relationship with the Confucius Institute, but the motion was turned down.
In an email to the Tri-City News, board chair Keri Palmer Isaak laid out how the program works without directly criticizing the brochure. However, the email indirectly challenges statements in the brochure that SD43’s program hires teachers who have been vetted by the Chinese Community Party to ensure that their views are in line with Communist Party ideology.
“Community members may choose to attend after school Mandarin Language, art or Kung Fu classes taught by local instructors, for a fee (these are currently online or on hold due to COVID restrictions),” wrote Palmer Isaak.
“The Confucius Institute in Coquitlam does not provide any programs or instruction to students of SD43 within the public school system.”
However, the brochure is highly-critical of what it describes as the district’s close ties with the Chinese government, citing concerns that the district receives funds for the after school program, as well as grants to visit China.
Port Coquitlam Mayor Brad West has also been drawn into the issue.
In the brochure, West calls the arrangement between SD43 and the Confucius Institute “morally bankrupt” because of China’s treatment of the Muslim Uyghurs and the detention of former diplomat Michael Kovrig and fellow Canadian Michael Spavor.
Others, including the District Parent Advisory Council for SD43 meanwhile, have called for more transparency about the program.