A poppy rests at the base of the Vimy Ridge Memorial taken during the Broncs World Tour in 2013. (File photo)

A poppy rests at the base of the Vimy Ridge Memorial taken during the Broncs World Tour in 2013. (File photo)

Ponoka families still waiting for refunds from cancelled Europe trip

Ponoka Secondary Campus families out thousands of dollars from cancelled Broncs World Tour

Trying to get refunds for Ponoka families who are out about $4,400 after the Broncs World Tour trip to Europe was cancelled has been “the worst kind of nightmare,” says Ponoka Secondary Campus teacher and tour organizer Ron Labrie.

“I’m beyond frustrated, for the parents, and for me as well,” he said.

Labrie added the families paid for the trip, complete with travel insurance, in “good faith,” and to not receive compensation is “devastating.”

READ MORE: WCPS cancelling March international trips due to COVID-19 outbreak

He just wants the claims to be processed so families can get paid, he says.

The trip that was to take place in March, 2020, would have been the school’s 11th for its Cenotaph Project. Students work for nearly a full year to research fallen soldiers from the Ponoka area, and visit their grave sites in Europe to pay their respects.

The travel company the school uses, Explorica Canada, has yet to refund the families, except for a $100 reimbursement under it’s own cancellation policy, says Labrie.

Explorica’s policies were underwritten by Old Republic Insurance Company of Canada and Labrie says it’s been a “blame game” between the companies to determine who is on the hook for the refunds.

As the tour was purchased as a package, there is no ability to seek refunds for different aspects of the trip, such as from an airline or hotel.

PSC isn’t the only school affected by this tour company, either. There are at least 124 schools in Canada that have joined a Facebook group, working together to share ideas and information to try to get their refunds from Explorica.

“It’s not a unique-to-Ponoka situation,” said Labrie.

PSC has used Explorica for 10 years with no problems. The company customizes the tour for them, which is essential to the nature of it, as many of their destinations are not typically tourism sites, and many haven’t been visited by outsiders for decades.

Labrie says the affected parents have been great to work with, and he’s been in touch on a regular basis with several of them to share information.

There were 19 students signed up for the trip this year.

And it’s not just the refunds that are uncertain. This issue may put the future of school trips in general in jeopardy, and with the ongoing pandemic, it’s anybody’s guess when international travel may be feasible again.

“The ripple effects are just crazy,” he says, adding it doesn’t seem like there will be a resolution any time soon.

“I think many people in the world hope things settle down and open up.”

Whenever they are able, Labrie says they’d like to go to Europe, with the same itinerary to honour the soldiers they’ve researched.

“We still want to pay them the respect and reverence they deserve.”

Not all the students will get another opportunity to go on the trip, however.

Michael Okeymaw’s daughter Persja Potts was a senior last year and has graduated.

“This isn’t fair to the families with the COVID crisis and the monetary hardships that a lot of families are having,” said Okeymaw.

With the cost of luggage, passport fees, clothes, adaptable charges, and other things, some families spent even more preparing for the trip, he says.

“I know there are many parents upset about it, too … it’s just disappointing to not receive a refund when the entire nation shut down and everyone was hit financially.”

His daughter has temporary employment now and is attending post secondary online, but when COVID-19 hit, she was let go from her job and collected Employment Insurance for awhile.

“She was able to keep up with her bills … It was a little struggle for her, but she could’ve used that money to help her out more. And since she didn’t get to enjoy the experience of travelling, she took it very hard when it was cancelled.

“The refund would help the families with bills and whatever else, but these companies are just adding more turmoil by giving us the run-around.”

Many complaints have been filed with different agencies and officials, and according to Okaymaw, a lawyer in Newfoundland is spearheading a lawsuit.

READ MORE: OUR COMMUNITY: Featuring PSC teacher Ron Labrie

Ponoka Secondary Campus

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

As of Friday, Alberta has under 10,000 active COVID-19 cases. (Image courtesy CDC)
Alberta identifies 573 new COVID-19 cases, 13 deaths on Saturday

There are currently 9,727 active cases of the virus in the province

As of Friday, Alberta has under 10,000 active COVID-19 cases. (Image courtesy CDC)
Three new COVID-19 deaths in Central zone, Alberta under 10,000 active cases

The Central zone sits at 849 active cases, with 52 people in hospital and 10 in the ICU.

Alberta’s chief medical officer of health Dr. Deena Hinshaw announced 16 additional deaths Thursday. (Photo by Chris Schwarz/Government of Alberta)
No easing of Alberta’s COVID-19 measures Thursday, 678 new COVID-19 cases

The province also hit 1,500 COVID-19 deaths since the beginning of the pandemic

Kyler Corriveau, of the Eckville area, was found dead on Sunday southeast of Red Deer. Police are investigating his death as a homicide. (Contributed photo).
Young Red Deer homicide victim is remembered as a caring friend

Police are investigating Kyler Corriveau’s untimely death

Sylvan Lake Winter Village. File Photo
3 charged in connection to vandalism at Sylvan Lake Winter Village

Sylvan Lake RCMP were able to identify the suspects thanks to community assistance

Alberta’s chief medical officer of health, Dr. Deena Hinshaw, updates media on the COVID-19 situation in Edmonton, Friday, March 20, 2020. Hinshaw says residents in long-term care and supportive living facilities will remain the priority as the province grapples with a looming slowdown in COVID-19 vaccine supply. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jason Franson
Alberta long-term care residents remain priority in looming slowdown of COVID vaccine

There are 119 patients in intensive care and 1,463 people have died

FILE - In this Feb. 14, 2017, file photo, Oklahoma State Rep. Justin Humphrey prepares to speak at the State Capitol in Oklahoma City. A mythical, ape-like creature that has captured the imagination of adventurers for decades has now become the target of Rep. Justin Humphrey. Humphrey, a Republican House member has introduced a bill that would create a Bigfoot hunting season, He says issuing a state hunting license and tag could help boost tourism. (Steve Gooch/The Oklahoman via AP, File)
Oklahoma lawmaker proposes ‘Bigfoot’ hunting season

A Republican House member has introduced a bill that would create a Bigfoot hunting season

FILE - In this Nov. 20, 2017, file photo, Larry King attends the 45th International Emmy Awards at the New York Hilton, in New York. Former CNN talk show host King has been hospitalized with COVID-19 for more than a week, the news channel reported Saturday, Jan. 2, 2021. CNN reported the 87-year-old King contracted the coronavirus and was undergoing treatment at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles. (Photo by Andy Kropa/Invision/AP, File)
Larry King, broadcasting giant for half-century, dies at 87

King conducted an estimated 50,000 on-air interviews

Black Press File Photo
Maskwacis RCMP lay charges for attempted murder, kidnapping, and flight from police

Female victim remains in hospital in serious condition.

In this Dec. 18, 2020 photo, pipes to be used for the Keystone XL pipeline are stored in a field near Dorchester, Neb.  THE CANADIAN PRESS/AP-Chris Machian /Omaha World-Herald via AP
‘Gut punch’: Alberta Premier Jason Kenney blasts Biden on revoked Keystone XL permit

Kenney said he was upset the U.S. wouldn’t consult with Canada first before acting

Joe Biden, then the U.S. vice-president, and Prime Minister Justin Trudeau take their seats at the start of the First Ministers and National Indigenous Leaders meeting in Ottawa, Friday, Dec. 9, 2016. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld
Trudeau, Biden to talk today as death of Keystone XL reverberates in Canada

President Joe Biden opposed the Keystone XL expansion as vice-president under Barack Obama

Prince Edward Island’s provincial flag flies on a flag pole in Ottawa, Friday July 3, 2020. A lozenge plant in Prince Edward Island has laid off 30 workers, citing an “almost non-existent” cold and cough season amid COVID-19 restrictions. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld
‘Almost non-existent’ cold and cough season: P.E.I. lozenge plant lays off 30 workers

The apparent drop in winter colds across the country seems to have weakened demand for medicine and natural remedies

Gov. Gen. Julie Payette takes the royal salute from the Guard of Honour as she makes her way deliver the the throne speech, Wednesday, September 23, 2020 in Ottawa. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Fred Chartrand
Gov. Gen. Julie Payette resigns, apologizes for ‘tensions’ at Rideau Hall

Payette, who is the Queen’s representative in Canada, has been the governor general since 2017

Grounded WestJet Boeing 737 Max aircraft are shown at the airline’s facilities in Calgary, Alta., Tuesday, May 7, 2019. WestJet will operate the first commercial Boeing 737 Max flight in Canada today since the aircraft was grounded in 2019 following two deadly crashes. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jeff McIntosh
Passengers unfazed as WestJet returns Boeing 737 Max to service on Calgary flight

After a lengthy review process, Transport Canada cleared the plane to return to Canadian airspace

Most Read