For the past few years we’ve joined a small but growing number of teams from the Toronto area who have boycotted the overcrowded meets here in late June/early July, and happily headed south to outdoor 50m meets in the US. It’s not hard to find meets that are perfect for our team, and the welcome from the hosts and other teams at the meets is fantastic. Incredibly friendly people, great atmosphere and wonderful swimming. This is the U.S. I know and love.
So it’s with a lot of frustration that I announce that we’ll be staying in Canada this year.
Toronto and surrounding area is incredibly multi-cultural, and swim meets have swimmers from many different backgrounds and cultures. It’s one of the things I like the most about living in this part of the world. This also means that probably every swim team has families who may have trouble crossing the border into the US. Now, perhaps they could all get across, but I’m not willing to take a chance that any of our swim families might be detained, questioned or ultimately made to feel not welcome. That is unacceptable to me.
You might think that I’m over-reacting. I’m not. Just last week, 19-year old Yassine Aber of the University of Sherbrooke, who was born in Canada and had a valid Canadian passport, was refused entry into the US when he tried to travel to Boston for a track meet. Yassine, whose parents are from Morocco, was travelling with 5 other athletes and their coach. Now, you may notice that Morocco isn’t even one of the 7 countries on Trump’s failed travel ban. It apparently doesn’t matter. Yassine was detained and questioned for 5 hours. He was fingerprinted, and had to provide his phone password. And, of course, he was also questioned about his Muslim faith. And then he was turned away.
I do not want that happening to anybody on our team.
And so we’ll look for a meet in Canada. I still want to boycott our local championship meets, at least until they get them under control (I blogged about this recently here). And I would really like to find a meet I can take our whole competitive team to. But for the time being, US-based meets are out.
I also can’t help but think that there are many Canadian groups coming to the same conclusion. And this is really a shame. Sports is an excellent way to form friendships and make connections with great people in other countries. I’ll definitely miss that.
In the meantime, I wish my American friends the best of luck through these tough times.