TDSB votes to delay partnership with Confucius Institute
The Toronto District School Board will vote on a motion Wednesday night that would suspend the board's partnership with a China-sponsored agency.
Published Wednesday, June 18, 2014 9:06PM EDT
Last Updated Wednesday, June 18, 2014 10:26PM EDT
The Toronto District School Board has voted in favour of a motion Wednesday night that delays a partnership with a China-sponsored agency.
Starting this fall, the Confucius Institute was expected to bring teachers from China to work in after-school Chinese language classes. The joint language program had sparked the anger of some parents and community members, who say the Beijing-sponsored centre is a mouthpiece for the Chinese government.
"(The Confucius Institute is) a threat to our children's academic freedoms and Canadian values," an online petition against the TDSB's partnership with the institute says. The petition has more than 1,100 supporters, so far.
A website, which was also created as a show of protest against the TDSB's partnership with the institute, explains that topics such as the 1989 Tiananmen Square massacre are "banned" by the Confucius Institute.
The passing of the motion means that board members will now investigate the concerns that have been brought to their attention by some parents about the institute's educational material that is apparently meant to spread Chinese government propaganda.
Wednesday's board meeting came after a special session that was held earlier in the day when the board elected Mari Rutka as the new chair. The former vice-chair of the TDSB is taking the place of Chris Bolton, who abruptly resigned last Friday, citing personal reasons.
In a statement sent by concerned parents and community members ahead of the meeting, they alleged that Bolton's "untimely retirement may have been due this secretive partnership and possible personal ties to the Chinese government."
In a letter from the ex-TDSB chair last Friday, Bolton said his resignation was based on "personal reasons." He did not provide any further details.
Ahead of Wednesday's board meeting, an anti-Confucius Institute demonstration was planned at the TDSB headquarters.
"Hundreds of parents and community group members are expected to rally out front of the TDSB wearing black ribbons over their mouth to urge all trustees to suspend CI," a statement from the protesters said.
The institute has a number of centres in North America -- the majority of them on postsecondary campuses, including Toronto's Seneca College.
According to the Confucius Institute at Seneca College website, the centre says its aim is to "promote Chinese language and culture through community-based learning and academic programming."
Wednesday's protest was the second one this month. Last week, the group protested outside the TDSB's headquarters during a planned committee meeting.