Canadian Students “Stranded” After Passport Thefts

A group of students from a school in Brampton are stuck in Cambodia after their passports were stolen during a social justice trip to the region.

The 10 students from St. Edmund Campion Catholic Secondary School left for their trip on Dec. 8 and were scheduled to return on Sunday, but hit an unexpected delay.

“They are doing some work in a rural community, helping work on a community building project and also there is a cultural aspect to the trip,” said Bruce Campbell, General Manager of Communications and Community Relations with the Dufferin-Peel Catholic District School Board.

Campbell said that the students were on a sight-seeing day trip in Cambodia’s capital, Phnom Penh, on Saturday when their passports were stolen.

All of the students’ documents were in a bag being held by a supervising staff member at the time, Campbell said.

“Somebody came by on a motorcycle, snatched the bag and (they were) gone,” he said. “This one sounded right out of a Mission Impossible or Jason Bourne movie.”

Campbell said the school has facilitated a number of social justice trips at different locations around the world, but nothing like this has every happened before.

“Part of the security is to keep everything with one of the adults. It’s a bit of a wild card. You never know what could happen,” he said.

Cheynne Myers told CTV News Toronto that one the students on the trip is her classmate, but that the school hadn’t mentioned the passport theft.

“It was weird that the school didn’t mention anything,” she said. “We do prayer at the end of the day and the chaplain mentioned that it was Christmas time and it was a big chaotic, but no one mentioned that we should pray for the people, for the camping students in Cambodia right now who just got their passports stolen.”

According to Campbell, the school board has been in contact with the Canadian consulate in Cambodia and the Canadian embassy in Thailand to try and get the students emergency passports, but the process is taking some time.

As of Monday morning, he could not provide an estimated time for when the students will be able to return home.

“One of the problems is that they are closed over the weekend, so staff at this end and also the staff on the trip have been in contact, trying to expedite some emergency passports for the group to return as home as soon as possible.”

In the meantime, the students are “in great spirits” and are safe and well accommodated, Campbell said.

“It looks like they are relay enjoying themselves but you know, deep down everybody wants to get home,” he said. “Hopefully this is just a story that the kids will be able to tell through their life, this kind of crazy thing that happened on their trip to Cambodia. But, we are optimistic they will be back home safe and sound as soon as possible.”

With files from CTV News Toronto’s Brandon Rowe

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