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

(File photo)
UPDATE: Parts of Sylvan Lake under boil water advisory

Town staff are working to repair the break in the Sixty West area

The Sylvan Lake and Area Girl Guides were out selling cookies towards the end of March in the parking lot at the Sylvan Lake Walmart, where their fan-favourite mint chocolate cookies were available. This weekend all members of the Girl Guides will be pooling their resources for a cookie blitz at HJ Cody and Wal-Mart. (Photo by Megan Roth/Sylvan Lake News)
Sylvan Lake Girl Guides holding cookie blitz this weekend

Girl Guides will set up a drive-thru cookie sale in two locations: HJ Cody and Wal-Mart

The Town of Sylvan Lake is looking at amending it Land Use Bylaw to allow businesses to add a patio to their business. Last summer Lakeshore Drive was closed to motor vehicles and businesses were allowed to expand their patios onto the sidewalks, the amended bylaw will not allow for patios to expand onto sidewalks or roadways, but Town staff are looking into further iniatives and ideas. (File Photo)
Sylvan Lake looking to expedite patio applications

The Town of Sylvan Lake is looking to amend its Land Use Bylaw in regards to commercial patios

A empty classroom is pictured at Eric Hamber Secondary school in Vancouver, B.C. Monday, March 23, 2020. The Alberta government says schools in Calgary will move to at-home learning starting Monday for students in grades 7 to 12.THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward
Calgary schools to shift to at-home learning for grades 7 to 12 due to COVID-19

The change, due to COVID-19, is to last for two weeks

A man wears a protective face covering to help prevent the spread of COVID-19 as he walks past the emergency entrance of Vancouver General Hospital in Vancouver, B.C., Friday, April 9, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward
COVID-19 spike in B.C. could overwhelm B.C. hospitals: modelling group

There are 397 people are in hospital due to the virus, surpassing a previous high of 374 seen in December

Ron Rauch and his wife Audrey are photographed at their home in Victoria, Friday, March 5, 2021. Their daughter Lisa Rauch died on Christmas Day 2019 when a tactical officer with the Victoria Police Department shot her in the back of the head with plastic bullets after barricading herself in a room that was on fire. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Chad Hipolito
B.C. families push for changes as special committee examines provincial Police Act

Solicitor General Mike Farnworth acknowledged the need to update the legislation last year

Major-General Dany Fortin, left, looks on as Minister of Public Services and Procurement Anita Anand provides an update on the COVID-19 pandemic, in Ottawa, Tuesday, Dec. 15, 2020. The Public Health Agency of Canada has set aside up to $5 billion to pay for COVID-19 vaccines. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Sean Kilpatrick
Canada negotiating contracts to secure COVID-19 booster shots for next year: Anand

Most of Canada’s current vaccine suppliers are already testing new versions against variants

(Government of Canada)
Liberal MP caught stark naked during House of Commons video conference

William Amos, in Quebec, appeared on the screens of his fellow members of Parliament completely naked

Health Canada headquarters in Ottawa. (Sean Kilpatrick/The Canadian Press)
Health Canada releases guidelines for reducing COVID-19 transmission at home

Improve indoor air quality by opening up your windows and doors, among other encouraged ventilation measures

Alberta Premier Jason Kenney updates media on measures taken to help with COVID-19, in Edmonton on Friday, March 20, 2020. Alberta is set to join three other provinces in exploring the feasibility of small modular reactors as a clean energy option. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jason Franson
Four provinces to sign memorandum of understanding to explore small nuclear reactors

Alberta government said in August that it would enter into the agreement to help diversify its energy sector

Sharis Carr, a nurse at the Aaron E. Henry Community Health Service Center in Clarksdale, Miss., holds a box containing doses of the Johnson & Johnson COVID-19 vaccine Wednesday, April 7, 2021. The U.S. is recommending a “pause” in using the single-dose Johnson & Johnson COVID-19 vaccine to investigate reports of potentially dangerous blood clots. (AP Photo/Rogelio V. Solis)
EXPLAINER: What’s known about COVID vaccines and rare clots

These are not typical blood clots – they’re weird in two ways

Most Read