Port Coquitlam’s mayor is calling out a planned trip to China by the local school district trustees as “highly problematic,” as tensions mount between Canada and the communist country.
“I believe it is wrong period… I don’t think that elected officials should be accepting free trips that are paid for by foreign governments,” Mayor Brad West told Black Press Media Wednesday.
“I think that places you completely at odds with your duty as an elected official.”
School District 43 trustees have taken the trip annually for four years, West said, paid for by the Confucius Institute, which has ties to the Chinese ministry of education. This year’s trip is scheduled for March.
West said to his knowledge, the school district is the only one in B.C., and one of the only groups in Canada, to take part. Other organizations like McMaster University, the University of Chicago and the Toronto school district have cut ties with the institute because of its goal to expand the influence of the Chinese government, he added.
“We have a huge number of respected universities say it would be entirely inappropriate to have a relationship with you [the Confucius Institute], and it’s at odds with where our core values are,” West said. “So why would the Coquitlam school district say sign us up?”
West said at least one of the trustees he has spoken with will not be going.
A request for comment from school board chair Barb Hobson has not yet been returned.
West also pointed to the added safety concerns following the recent detainment of two Canadians, as well as an Abbotsford man being held in China on drug-smuggling charges being sentenced to death.
Global Affairs Canada has issued a travel advisory, urging Canadian travellers to be cautious in China because of a “risk of arbitrary enforcement of local laws.”
West said it’s not his job as mayor to tell other elected officials what to do, but is urging trustees to consider his and other’s concerns.