Friday, February 24, 2017

Windsor school board cancels trips to the United States

The Greater Essex County District School Board in Windsor, Ontario, Canada has decided to cancel all student trips to the United States for the rest of February.

The board expressed uncertainty over whether all students would be allowed to cross the border. Board officials said that Trump's ban on travellers from seven nations meant that the board could not guarantee that every student could be able to go with the group. Board spokesperson Scott Scantlebury said:
"Our priority is the safety and well being of students. Having to, for whatever reason, have a student travelling on a field trip be barred from entry or be left behind ... we're not going to proceed if that is the possibility."Scantlebury noted that the decision is not permanent policy but will be reconsidered after Trump's orders are resolved in US courts. Scantlebury also said: “Where one person doesn’t go, nobody goes … we want to make sure nobody is excluded." Windsor has multicultural schools with students from many countries.
Clara Howitt, a superintendent with the Board said that field trips were being cancelled to the U.S. because the current U.S. political climate was considered too "unsafe" and unpredictable to permit cross-border trips. She said: “Paramount for us is student safety … we really don’t know what will happen to our students at the border.” Ottawa has begun monitoring the situation, particularly that of dual citizens who have been denied entrance at the border. Among the trips cancelled were to the Metro Detroit Holocaust Memorial Center.
Windsor West MP Brian Masse says he has already heard of Canadians turned back. He says he has even heard of Americans not coming to visit Canada because they fear what could happen at the border when they try to return. Superintendent Howit consulted with U.S. border officials before the board made its decision. The reply was that any students who were citizens of the seven listed countries would be barred from crossing. This was before the recent court ruling staying the order but the board still felt the situation was uncertain.
Another casualty of the new ban is the W.F. Herman Academy award-winning concert bands. The group raise funds and organize a big festival trip every couple of years. The junior and senior bands planned to travel to a music festival in Washington this April but the public school board rejected the trip when it was discovered that students would be in the capital on the same day as a massive social justice rally that is expected to draw up to half a million protesters. W.F. Herman, has more than 1,200 students from all over the world according to principal Josh Canty who said: “If this were a regular school trip, it would be a great trip, but it’s not a safe time for us to be there" There is hope an alternate festival can be found on the Canadian side of the border.
A truck driver from one of the countries on Trump's list who had clearance to use FAST lanes that provide expedited access to the U.S. has had his trusted traveller documents revoked. The driver showed the letter revoking his clearance to MP Brian Masse. The driver is a permanent resident of Canada and obviously had to go through considerable vetting to get the documents. Several school boards in Alberta have also cancelled all international trips for now and that includes the United States.