Letter: Coquitlam school officials set bad example with China trips

The Editor,

Re. “Trip to China just business: SD43” (The Tri-City News, July 18) and "‘Pandering’ to Chinese $" (Letters, The Tri-City News, Aug. 15).

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The School Act indicates that there must be a board of education for each school district that consists of trustees. A person elected or appointed as trustee must take an oath of office. A trustee makes the solemn promise to abide by the School Act and faithfully perform the duties of their office, and not allow any private interest to influence their conduct in public matters.

But School District 43 trustees and staff have been letting the Chinese government cover the entire cost of their yearly trip to China, which has been happening since 2007.

In his book Claws of the Panda, Jonathan Manthorpe wrote: "In the case of the Coquitlam School Board, questions about the probity of the trustees arose when it was found out that many had taken handouts as part of the Confucius Institute deal."

CUPE Local 561 president Dave Ginter, in his letter, says he considers the trip a conflict of interest and demands more transparency from the trustees.

In addition, the former chair of the Vancouver School Board, Patti Bacchus, told The Tri-City News the free trips should raise several red flags about the ethical behaviour of public servants taking handouts from foreign governments. She also said that there should be a lot more scrutiny to ensure that it is not subjecting Canadians to Chinese government propaganda during these all-expenses-paid junkets.

Although the trips have been questioned so many times, Barb Hobson, chair of the SD43 board of education and a Coquitlam trustee, and superintendent Patricia Gartland, together with the international education program's director of marketing, surreptitiously took a trip to China in late May that the district paid for. What was the motivating force that took them to China?

These public officials even have the nerve to disregard the request of The Tri-City News for an interview.

Aren't they laughing at the system that sees more and more people disengage from politics and which discourage them from voting? Are we in democracy where transparency and accountability are expected or in a moneycracy that is twisting Canadians' values?

Is this the example the board of education is transmitting to the students whose education the board is supposed to take care of?

Marta Posilovic, Coquitlam

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