Letter: SD43 needs to go to school on China

Letter writer surprised School District 43's superintendent and board of education chair, who travelled to China, aren't available for comment.

The Editor,

Re. “Trip to China just business: SD43” (The Tri-City News, July 18).

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I would like to suggest that Claws of the Panda: Beijing’s Campaign of Influence and Intimidation in Canada by Jonathan Manthorpe be required reading for all senior School District 43 staff and trustees.

Given that SD43 is mentioned several times in the chapters on the Confucius Institutes, perhaps some of them have already read it — but clearly not enough of them

I understand SD43’s desire to raise extra funds through its international education program and even its initial enthusiasm in being funded for a Confucius Classroom back in 2008 (later upgraded to a Confucius Institute). It must have appeared like a great opportunity to introduce the Chinese language, culture and art to Tri-City students at no cost to the district.

But, for many years, it has been apparent that the Confucius Institutes are part of a multi-pronged effort by China to influence opinion in Canada at the government, educational, business and local levels. 

Given the current climate between Canada and China over Huawei, the retaliatory imprisonment and mistreatment of two Canadians — Michael Kovrig and Michael Spavor — not to mention the euphemistic “re-education” of up to one million Uighurs, with families torn apart and children sent to special schools to cleanse them of their culture, we should all think twice before travelling to China, a country that is bent on moulding the rest of the world in its image.

(As an aside, kudos to Port Coquitlam Mayor Brad West for raising the issue of Chinese sponsorship of a reception at the upcoming Union of BC Municipalities convention.)

As well, I am surprised that neither the superintendent of SD43, Patricia Gartland, nor the chair of the board of education, Coquitlam Trustee Barb Hobson, are available to comment until late August.

They must be hoping Tri-City residents have short memories. I’m hoping reporter Diane Strandberg has a long one and continues to press for answers.

Hazel Postma, Coquitlam

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