Sunday, April 2, 2017

Toronto District School Board cancels all new trips to the United States

The Toronto District School Board is canceling all new planned school trips to the United States until further notice due to the uncertainty with respect to whom could be affected by Trump's latest travel restrictions.

The Girl Guides of Canada and other school boards have halted travel to the U.S. The Windsor School board implemented a ban back on February 11th as reported in a Digital Journal article. The new ban replacing an earlier one bans travel to the U.S. from Syria, Iran, Libya, Somalia, Sudan and Yemen unless the travelers have already been issued valid visas. However, as with the first ban, the new version is suspended pending several court challenges. The ban is to last 90 days.
In a statement released on Thursday, March 23rd, John Malloy, Director of Education said that the board faced a difficult choice: "We strongly believe that our students should not be placed into these situations of potentially being turned away at the border. For the planned trips that will be continuing, should students with the appropriate documentation be denied entry to the U.S. for no legitimate reason, the entire trip will return to Toronto and will not proceed." The board has 246,000 students in 584 schools throughout Toronto.If the U.S. travel restrictions are fully implemented, the school board said that even pre-approved trips would be cancelled.
A few individuals from the countries on the ban list will still be eligible to enter the U.S. if they are dual nationals travelling on a passport from a country not on the list or if they are legal permanent residents of the U.S. Iraq has been removed from the second list of banned countries. The Ottawa-Carleton District school board sent a letter to parents asking them if they thought upcoming trips to the U.S. should go ahead.
Roy Bird, spokesperson for the Toronto board told the Canadian Broadcasting System (CBC) that the ban would be in place until further notice. When asked whether the ban was a political statement he said: "I think this is about the information that we have in front of us. I think it's about the equity and inclusion angle. I'm not naive to say that it doesn't make a statement, but the decision is not being made as a statement." He said the main concern of the board was that students would not be turned away at the border even if they had the necessary documentation. Bird noted: "We have heard anecdotal stories of the executive order, in some cases when it was in place before, preventing people even with the appropriate documentation from crossing the border, and we don't want to put our students in that position. What we're saying is if this executive order is fully implemented, it could cause problems."
Toronto District School Board (TDSB) chair, Robin Pilkey said that there were 25 previously organized trips involving 900 students that will go ahead as planned. He said if any students with proper documentation are turned back the whole group will return. Pilkey said: "We're committed as a school board to equity, inclusiveness and fairness, and it's not appropriate that some students would not be able to attend based on their country of birth." While some families are asking why all trips were not cancelled, others are anxious planned trips go ahead. Bird said: "Hundreds of kids have been working months in some cases, fundraising, planning, working hard on competitions to get to where they are, and we don't want them to miss out on those opportunities."

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