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Avoiding America

Canada's largest school board is the latest organization to steer clear of the U.S. over Trump's travel ban

Canada’s largest school board halts new trips to the U.S. over Trump travel ban

Canada’s largest school board won’t book any new field trips to the U.S. over travel policies being pursued by President Donald Trump. The move comes as other school boards and community groups across Canada take similar steps to steer clear of the southern border.

The Toronto District School Board (TDSB), which serves around 246,000 students in 584 schools, released a statement Thursday saying that “given the uncertainty of these new travel restrictions and when they may come into effect, if at all, we strongly believe that our students should not be placed into these situations of being potentially turned away at the border.”

The 25 previously planned trips to the U.S. will proceed, it notes, however those could be canceled should Trump’s executive order barring people traveling from six Muslim-majority countries be fully implemented.

Two federal U.S. judges recently blocked Trump’s revised order that his administration maintains is necessary to protect the country against terrorism. Though paused for now, Trump has vowed to continue fighting for the ban in court. Meanwhile, numerous Canadians and permanent residents, including those who hold dual citizenship from countries in the Middle East, have been turned away at the Canada-U.S. border. Many have spoken out about invasive interrogations by American border guards who allegedly probed their religious and political beliefs before rejecting them.

Other people turned away includes a group of church volunteers from Hamilton, Ontario, who claim they weren’t allowed to cross into New Jersey to do relief work last week over fears they would “steal American jobs.”

Also last week, the Girl Guides of Canada cancelled any future trips to the U.S. over fears of something like this happening, though they do not cite Trump specifically. It’s a big change for the group, which frequently traveled to the U.S. for gatherings with their counterparts. For instance, a camping trip the California was rescheduled somewhere closer to home.

“We really wanted to make sure that no girl gets left behind,” a spokesperson told CBC. “We wanted to make sure there was zero risk.”

And in February, the Greater Essex County District School Board — which covers many schools near the border with Detroit — announced that it had canceled a number of school trips into the U.S., including to Washington, D.C., over “safety and equity” concerns.

The board plans to revisit the policy based on how Trump’s proposals are dealt with in court. “I’m sure there is disappointment that some trips have been canceled,” a board member told CBC, “but I think that this is an important opportunity for students to learn as well and to value inclusivity.”

Canada’s public safety minister Ralph Goodale has been under pressure to address the increasing number of Canadians being turned away by American border agents, and he has said the department will deal with cases as they arise.

“When a Canadian presents themselves at the border with the proper documentation, they have every right to expect fair and respectful treatment,” Goodale said in Montreal earlier this month.

Cover: Lucy Nicholson/Reuters

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