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CBC: Immigration Officials Will Not Be Allowed To Question Students: Board

May 26, 2006 - cbc.ca

Toronto's 550 public schools will not allow federal officials to question their students about the immigration status of their families, effective in September.

The Toronto District School Board's new policy, passed at a meeting Wednesday night, comes in the wake of a widely criticized incident at a Toronto Catholic high school, where federal officials pulled students out of class to track down parents staying in Canada illegally.

In the new school year, federal officials will have to meet with the school board director if they have questions about possible illegal immigrants.

Trustee Josh Matlow said the school board, which oversees administration for about 450 elementary schools and 100 secondary schools, decided it had to act quickly to send a message to the federal government about the approach of its immigration officials.

The Toronto Catholic District School Board adopted a similar policy recently.

"When you see a problem like this, you need to take a strong stand and tell the federal government that we won't allow their border service people to come into our schools and put fear into these kids and put fear into their parents," he said.

"Children should be able to come to school every day and know that adults are there to support them and not hold them ransom to catch their parents. That's not the signal we want to send to kids, not the signal that we want to send to their parents."

Kimberly Lizano-Sossa, a student who was pulled out of class at Dante Alighieri Academy on April 27 along with her brother Gerald, said the new policy is a step in the right direction. She and her brother attended the board meeting Wednesday night to show their support for the policy.

"It will be impossible for immigration to come into schools and have students taken out the way we were taken out. It's a great thing to see that we're helping many other students in our situation to be safe in school," she said.

Immigration officials have decided to allow Kimberly and her brother to finish the school year in Toronto, but they and their family will be deported to Costa Rica in early July.

The Toronto District School Board is the largest in Canada, with its schools serving about 184,000 elementary students and 86,000 secondary students.