Canadian schools and universities justify ties with China’s Confucius Institutes

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Canadian schools and universities with ties to China’s Confucius Institutes say they see no reason to reassess those partnerships, despite a lack of clarity over the influence the Chinese-government-backed education organization has in some Vancouver-area schools.

An examination of documents obtained through Freedom of Information requests found the Confucius Institute has helped some schools in the district purchase supplies, such as laptops, for Mandarin classes that are part of the curriculum. The examination also found that assessments of the programs requested feedback on attitudes toward the Confucius Institute in the community.

The documents, which included emails, a board meeting agenda, and the full text of agreements signed with Confucius headquarters, contain details of payments for the district’s Mandarin bilingual programs at Walton Elementary School, Scott Creek Middle School, and five local high schools. In 2017, more than 3,500 children attended Confucius courses in Coquitlam.

Over the past decade, critics have objected against Confucius Institutes in Canada providing paid trips to China for staff, and questioned whether China is using the organization to influence Canadian affairs. McMaster University closed its Confucius Institute in 2013 over practices that appeared to prohibit teachers hired in China and sent abroad to teach.

The Toronto District School Board ended its Confucius Institute program in 2014, and New Brunswick will follow suit by 2022. The British Columbia Institute of Technology closed down its program last year. Agreements at Saint Mary’s University and the University of Waterloo’s Renison University College are up for renewal this year, with decisions pending.

The Canadian Association of University Teachers in 2014 encouraged its members to sever ties with the Confucius Institute.

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