Although a New Brunswick Confucius Institute was closed last year, a separate location in Coquitlam, British Columbia continues to operate after quietly changing its name.
The development highlights how there are still several Confucius Institutes in Canada, playing the role of the propaganda agent for the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) and exerting influence on Canadian society.
In the past few years, five Confucius Institutes have been shut down throughout Canada, but there are eight still running in cooperation with the following organizations:
- BC Coquitlam Public School District
- Edmonton Public School District
- University of Regina
- University of Saskatchewan
- Seneca College in Toronto
- Carleton University in Ottawa
- Dawson College in Montreal
- Saint Mary’s University in Halifax
Among them, the Coquitlam-based Institute quietly renamed itself last year to the “Chinese Language and Culture Institute,” with its website stating that the project is supported by South China Normal University.
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In fact, the Chinese Ministry of Education issued a notice in July 2020 to change the name of the Confucius Institute Headquarters (also previously known as Hanban) to “Centre for Language Education and Cooperation” (CLEC).
On the CLEC’s official website, there is no longer a mention of the Confucius Institute at all, but the website states the agency is affiliated with the Chinese Ministry of Education, advertising it “intends to build a platform for friendly collaboration on language education and cross-cultural learning.”
The CLEC claims it is “committed to providing quality services for people from all over the world to learn Chinese and understand China.”
The New Brunswick precedent
Dominic Cardy, former New Brunswick Minister of Education who resigned last fall, said that he’s proud he was able to cut ties with China’s Confucius Institute before he quit from the cabinet.
The Confucius Institute began operating in the province in 2007, expanding across 40 schools by 2018. In the past few years, the program was increasingly criticized over concerns that the Institute has injected the CCP’s ideologies into its Chinese language program.
For example, complaints that no classroom discussion was allowed of human rights violations in Tibet or the 1989 massacre of pro-democracy protesters at Tiananmen Square in China abounded.
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Cardy, having worked as a democracy activist in multiple countries around the world in his career and being an outspoken critic of authoritarian regimes, has studied China issues in depth and is well aware of the true nature of the Confucius Institute.
After taking office as Minister in 2018, he severely criticized and investigated the Institute.
“Programs supposedly focusing on culture and language in many cases included overt political propaganda. This included having elementary school students drawing maps of China that would erase the border with Taiwan, included the denial of the reality of Tiananmen Square [massacre], included the disciplining of students who raised questions around China’s abysmal human rights record,” Cardy said at a hearing on June 21, 2021 before the Canadian Parliament.
“I do not, did not and would not tolerate supporting a program run and managed by a foreign political party operating in our public school system,” he added.
Cardy added, “Knowing this, and with the background that I had, when I became minister at the end of 2018, I resolved to try to end the Confucius Institute’s programs in New Brunswick.”
Doris Liu, a Chinese-Canadian director for the documentary In the Name of Confucius said that although schools in North America and other parts of the world have been continually cutting ties with Confucius Institutes one after another, there are some cases where the maneuver is just the tactic of “old wine in a new bottle.”
“Removing the branding of the Confucius Institute does not mean that it has stopped the CCP’s ideological output. It has not. It is still the same cooperation with the Confucius Institute in the past. It continues to pose a potential danger to Canadian society, ” Liu said.
Liu has conducted in-depth research on North America’s Confucius Institutes. She said that in the past four years, 104 of the 118 Institutes in the United States have been closed, but began reopening one after another during the pandemic.
The U.S.-based National Association of Scholars has written a report to remind the outside world of the Confucius Institute’s operation and impact in the “post-Confucius Institute era.”
Meibao Li, president of the Vancouver Society in Support of the Democratic Movement (VSSDM), has been calling on Canada to pay attention to the infiltration of Confucius Institutes.
She said that the pandemic has made the school system more closed, which has made it harder for the outside world to explore the cooperation between the schools and the Confucius Institute.
Li said that in the time following school reopening, the VSSDM will join other democratic groups to put pressure on Canadian schools not to continue exposing campuses to foreign government interference.
“Schools always use the excuse that they still have contracts to keep operations of the Confucius Institute, so we have to track the status of the contracts of each school to ensure that they will not renew their contracts, and also to ensure that Chinese officials will not influence our schools with any other means,” Li said.
By April Chu, Vision Times Staff