Learning about the Middle Kingdom with the Canada-China Friendship Society of Ottawa

The  relationship  between  China and  Canada  is  complex.  For starters, China  is  Canada’s  second largest trading partner. Over 80,000 Chinese  students  are  studying  in Canada. Chinese visitors are the third largest group of tourists in Canada and more Canadians than ever are going to China to do business, work, study and to sightsee.

puzzlepieceAs the ties between the two countries grow, so does our interest in better understanding one another. The Canada-China Friendship Society of Ottawa (CCFSO), formed in 1976, offers a variety of ways for Ottawans to learn about China.

It hosts a monthly speaker series, inviting influential and well-informed speakers to discuss various aspects of China. Some have them have included:

•  Former Ambassadors David Mulroney, Howard Balloch and Robert Wright, who looked at Canada-China relations;

• Mayor Jim Watson spoke on the relationship between sister cities Ottawa and Beijing;

•  Victor Rabinovitch (former CEO of the Canadian Museum of Civilization (now the Canadian Museum of History) discussed China’s new Beijing Museum; and,

•  Professor Richard French, gave a comparison of economic development in China and India.

Former Prime Minister Joe Clark talks about the history of Canada’s engagement with China at a Canada-China Friendship Society of Ottawa panel discussion.
Former Prime Minister Joe Clark talks about the history of Canada’s engagement with China at a Canada-China Friendship Society of Ottawa panel discussion.

The CCFSO also shows films. Last May, it screened the documentary film Nowhere to Call Home, about the challenges of the Tibetan minority in China. After the screening, there was a Skype interview with the film’s director, American journalist Jocelyn Ford.

The Society is an independent, volunteer organization, funded through its members who now number about 250. It maintains good relations with the Chinese Embassy, which hosts a very popular annual reception where society members can meet the Chinese Ambassador and hear about the latest developments in Canada-China relations.

Besides the speaker series, the CCFSO organizes other activities, including a book club. For the Chinese New Year in early February, over 200 members and non-members attend the CCFSO’s banquet celebration, enjoying a ten-course feast along with entertainment and a silent auction.

Every other year, two local students are chosen to attend a Summer Youth Camp organized by the Shanghai People’s Friendship Association. The students explore Shanghai and its surroundings, learn about China and interact with students from other countries at the camp.

The CCFSO recently invited professionals from the Ottawa area to attend conferences in China, one in Jiangsu province on seniors’ care and one on urban affairs in Beijing.

Those who wish to learn more about China are welcome to join or simply attend one of the CCFSO’s upcoming events.

On October 2, Canadian professor Daniel Bell, who teaches in Beijing, will speak about China’s political system. Full information on this and other events is available at www.ccfso.org and www.facebook.com/ccfs Ottawa.

Article written by Lorraine Farkas, Past President of the Canada-China Friendship Society of Ottawa.