British Columbia

Book translation project killed over Canada-China feud

University of the Fraser Valley professor Keith Thor Carlson was counting down the days until residents of China would be able to read about the history of B.C.’s Coast Salish people.

Professor Keith Thor Carlson says Chinese publisher pulled out due to escalating tensions

University of the Fraser Valley professor Keith Thor Carlson speaks at an event at the University of Saskatchewan. (University of Saskatchewan)

University of the Fraser Valley professor Keith Thor Carlson was counting down the days until residents of China would be able to read about the history of B.C.'s Coast Salish people.

Now it appears the project may be a casualty of the frosty relationship between Canada and China.

For the past 18 months, Chinese scholars have been translating four of Carlson's books into Mandarin so they can be made available throughout China's public libraries and universities.

"They would suddenly become accessible to 1.4 billion readers," Carlson said. "I thought it was phenomenal opportunity."

The work is nearly completed but Carlson got an email on Friday saying the publisher is pulling out of the project.

"Out of the blue, the publisher in China said thanks, but no thanks," he said.

"They're afraid of the current tensions between China and Canada and they no longer are willing to be part of this process."

Trade war

Tensions between Canada and China have been high since Huawei executive Meng Wanzhou was arrested at Vancouver International Airport in December 2018.

China has since banned imports of canola, beef and pork from Canada.

Carlson has followed the trade war closely but says he hoped all along that it wouldn't affect his project.

"We were kind of hoping hoping and aspiring that this would help to open the door to more similar collaborations in translation projects," he said.

"You can go to China and find Shakespeare translated, but in terms of the history of indigenous peoples of Canada, this has never been done before."

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