TORONTO — Girl Guides of Canada will not approve any new travel to the United States, describing the decision as difficult but necessary to protect its members.
The organization released a statement Monday saying it decided to cancel future trips due to uncertainty over whether all of its members would equally be allowed to enter the U.S.
It said the organization values providing safe, inclusive and accepting experiences to its members, including when travelling.
Although the U.S. is a "frequent destination" for its members, the organization said all trips including travel that requires connecting through an American airport will not be approved.
Girl Guides spokeswoman Sarah Kiriliuk said the decision is a preventative measure.
"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," she said.
She said policies are already in place that require a group to turn back in the event anyone on a trip is blocked at the border.
The statement says provincial advisers on international travel will contact a small number of groups that were already approved for trips to the United States about how they should proceed.
Exact figures of how many trips that are already planned were not available, but Kiriliuk said in a year between 700 and 800 girls travel to the U.S. and various other international locations.
She said trips that have been paid for and cannot be refunded will be assessed individually to ensure no girl gets left behind.
A nationally sponsored trip to a camp in California that was scheduled for this summer is also being relocated to another international destination.
Kiriliuk said while some members may be disappointed by the change, the organization is still encouraging international travel.
"There's a lot of other places to see in the world," she says, adding the organization is part of an international network with partners in India, Switzerland, Mexico and other countries.
Kiriliuk said it was a difficult decision to reach and the organization will re-evaluate policies on U.S. travel when there is more certainty that all Canadian members can cross the border.
"This is not a political decision," Kiriliuk said. "This is about delivering an inclusive and diverse program to our girls."
The organization is not the first to stop children's trips to the United States.
Several schools and school districts across Canada debated going ahead with trips south of the border following the first executive order issued by President Donald Trump that imposed travel restrictions to citizens from seven Muslim-majority countries.
A Winnipeg junior high school cancelled a trip by its track team to Minnesota in January because it wasn't certain all students would be able to cross the border.
The Greater Essex County School Board in southwestern Ontario decided in February to cancel a handful of trips over concerns of safety and equity, while districts in southern Vancouver Island debated whether to ban all U.S. travel or handle each trip on a case-by-case basis.
— By Linda Givetash in Vancouver
The Canadian Press