Elected school board trustees in School District 43 may soon be heading off on an all-expenses-paid trip to China — and they’re receiving a lot of flak for not cancelling the trip.
Port Coquitlam Mayor Brad West had harsh words for the trustees in an interview on The Lynda Steele Show on CKNW.
He said at any given time elected officials need to think closely about how their actions may be construed.
“This is wrong, in my opinion, at the best of times. You’re elected to serve your constituents, your tax payers, your residents,” West said.
“You’re not elected to go overseas on a junket funded by a foreign government. I mean, it’s completely at odds with the job you’ve been elected to do.”
And when the trip coincides with times of heightened political tension, like what’s going on now between Canada and China?
“Oh, I think it’s appalling,” West said.
Tensions have been high between Canada and China since the arrest of Huawei CFO Meng Wanzhou in Vancouver last month.
Since then, two Canadians have been detained in China, and an Abbotsford man has been sentenced to death for drug trafficking.
West said Canadians in China are being detained and undergoing human rights abuses.
“When Canadians are undergoing that sort of treatment from the government of China, now’s the time when school trustees think they should go to China to have good relations with the country — I mean, it just makes no sense.”
The trip, planned for March, will be paid for by the Confucius Institute, which has ties to the Chinese Ministry of Education.
West said it’s a yearly trip taken by the school district officials — bad enough under normal circumstances.
Global Affairs Canada issued a travel advisory for China Monday, urging travellers to exercise a high degree of caution in China “due to the risk of arbitrary enforcement of local laws.”
West said the school trustees were “mulling” the travel advisory and he urged them to strongly reconsider their trip.
They represent the district that includes schools from Coquitlam, Port Coquitlam, Port Moody, Anmore, and Belcarra.