School election trip cancelled after anti-abortion outcry
Students at an east Ottawa Catholic school are rallying behind their teacher, whose planned U.S. election-centric trip to Ohio was cancelled Thursday after online anti-abortion protests.
St. Peter Catholic High School students wore blue and declared themselves “Team Searle” on Friday, a day before teacher Scott Searle’s planned trip with 52 students was set to begin.
Principal Norma McDonald said she cancelled the trip after a number of negative comments on anti-abortion site Life Site News, which published an article quoting a parent saying it was a partisan effort to support U.S. president Barack Obama and his pro-abortion agenda.
"This trip is wrong because we have a Catholic school sending Catholic students to campaign on behalf of the most radical, pro-abortion president in U.S. history," said John Jalsevac, who wrote the article.
“The negative feelings and comments of people coming in, from people I didn’t know . . . I certainly did not want staff and students exposed to that kind of negativity,” said McDonald.
The principal said she hadn’t received any complaints from parents about the trip.
At issue are allegations in the article from an anonymous student that Searle “made it very clear that this was to promote Obama.”
McDonald said Searle's personal polital views did not influence her decision, as his LinkedIn profile says he volunteered for the Obama campaign this year.
Other students at the rally said that wasn’t the point of the trip.
“It wasn’t necessarily to support Obama, it was to see how politics go on,” said Grade 11 student Kashi Lussamaki. “This was to get students more involved.”
"I just thought it would be an opportunity to see how their political system works and everything, to see how it's different from the Canadian (one)," said Grade 12 student Jasmine Cousineau.
Obama campaign organizer Chuck Ardo said via Skype that those clamouring fo the trip's cancellation weren't acting in the best interests of the students.
"The anti-abortion forces are imposing their views and thereby depriving these kids of an experience of a lifetime," he said.
Ontario Premier Dalton McGuinty said Friday that trip decisions should be up to the school board.
With a report from CTV Ottawa’s Vanessa Lee
CORRECTION: A previous edition of this article incorrectly stated that Searle's personal views did influence McDonald's decision. CTV Ottawa apoligizes for the error.