No scout left behind: Girl Guides of Canada deem US visits too risky

The Girl Guides issued a statement saying that they would cancel trips across the US border because 'the ability of all our members to equally enter this country is currently uncertain.'

Lyle Stafford/Reuters/File
An international boundary marker marks the Canada-U.S. border near the former border crossing at Emerson, Manitoba, Canada.

The Girl Guides of Canada have a no scout left behind policy that trumps trips to the United States.

Worried that members or chaperones may be detained by American border agents, the Canadian branch of the World Association of Girl Guides and Girl Scouts released a statement explaining that it would not approve any trips traveling to or through the United States.

“At Girl Guides of Canada, we know our members value the safe, inclusive and accepting space that Guiding provides. These values are reflected in all we do, including the Girl Guide travel experiences we offer girls and women,” the statement reads. “While the United States is a frequent destination for Guiding trips, the ability of all our members to equally enter this country is currently uncertain.”

The statement makes no direct mention of President Trump or the updated travel ban, which denies entry to citizens of six mainly Muslim countries (but now exempts visa and green card holders). But the Girl Guide's new policy seems to be a response to fears that difficulties could arise if a member of the travel party were turned away at the border.

“We just looked at our organization and realized that we do have a lot of girls travelling and this was potentially creating a situation that would either be a risk for the group or would create an uncomfortable situation in the case that somebody did get turned back at the border,” Girl Guides spokeswoman Sarah Kiriliuk told the National Post.

Nevertheless, the organization insists this move is about protecting its girls. “This is not a political decision,” Ms. Kiriliuk said.  “This is about delivering an inclusive and diverse program to our girls.”

Girl Guides has relocated a California trip planned for this summer, and other trips already on the books will be evaluated on a case-by-case basis.

The policy change, which will affect both trips to the US and any trip with a flight routed through the US, will certainly come as a disappointment to many girl guides.

"This was a very difficult decision to make," the statement said. "We hope that members will appreciate this reflects our commitment to inclusivity and equal opportunities for all girls and women."

While some find the notion that the US would turn away children or their supervisors dubious, a number of incidents in which border control detained unlikely suspects have been reported since the travel ban began.

Such cases include a British Muslim teacher on a school trip from Wales, Canadians intending to join the Women’s March in Washington D.C, in January, award-winning Australian children’s author Mem Fox, and US-born NASA scientist Sidd Bikkannavar.

As many as 700 to 800 girls travel abroad with the program each year, but the organization says it has no intention of turning inwards.

“There’s a lot of other places to see in the world,” Kiriliuk said to the National Post. The group reportedly belongs to an international network that includes partners in countries such as India, Switzerland, and Mexico.

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