Opinion Column

The Duel

Girl Guides blazing a trail

By Garth Mullins, The Duel

(Ross Helen/Getty Images)

(Ross Helen/Getty Images)


This week's question: Are Girl Guides of Canada wise to suspend trips to U.S.?

It’s that time of year again. Girl Guides are selling their cookies: classic chocolate or vanilla sandwich. But there’s a new flavour: sweet solidarity. It’s subtle, but the taste is unmistakable.

Last week, Girl Guides of Canada cancelled all trips to the U.S.

“Our primary goal was to reduce the risk of our members encountering difficulties at the border, and ensuring that no girl is left behind,” a statement read.

Guides don’t want any of their 90,000 members singled out, interrogated or denied entry to America. It’s the same reason schools are cancelling field trips.

Read Brent Stafford's column here.

Racial profiling on the border is nothing new. But Donald Trump’s immigration ban has made border crossing even more nerve-wracking. People are detained, denied entry, questioned for hours and have their phones and computers searched.

While Trump’s executive orders face court challenges, border guards are getting the message: the gloves are off. They’re questioning Canadians about their political views and religious practices, inventing non-existent visa requirements and turning back nurses, journalists, church volunteers and many others.

Why would a Brown Owl (Guide leader) risk that happening to one of her girls? Besides, there are fewer reasons for a visit. Guiding promotes girls and women in science, technology, engineering and math. But Trump’s budget proposes big cuts to national parks, health, research and the arts. Bill H.R. 899 will terminate the Department of Education and H.R. 861 does the same to the Environmental Protection Agency.

Plus, Guides have sister organizations in several countries listed in Trump’s immigration ban. To a diverse organization that has now started to welcome trans kids, America must seem unwelcoming indeed.

Eschewing America echoes Guiding’s earliest days. Sparks flew in 1909 when girls protested their exclusion from Boy Scouts.

Since then, they’ve been earning badges that defy gender stereotypes including: engineer, air mechanic, home defence, metalworker, tracker, telegraphist and more.

Part of the Guides’ mission is to build self-esteem – pretty hard for a girl singled out at the border.

I never thought I’d see Brownies boycott America – or that I’d be writing about them. In my brief time as a Cub Scout, I didn’t quite feel at home among ranks of uniformed, chanting youth.

But now Girl Guides are blazing a trail. Come on boys, try to keep up. We should all be earning our anti-authoritarian badges.

My mom plans to buy extra cookies this year - enough to fund a Girl Guide trip to somewhere else.

Garth Mullins is a broadcaster, activist, writer, musician and trade unionist. He’s at www.garthmullins.com or @garthmullins.