Ayers barred from entering Canada

Professor scheduled to give lecture in Toronto

Tuesday, April 7th, 2009

The Canadian government has prevented controversial speaker William Ayers from entering the country.

Ayers " an education professor at the University of Illinois at Chicago " was scheduled to give a lecture earlier this week at the Centre for Urban Schooling at the University of Toronto’s Ontario Institute for Studies in Education. He was also scheduled to be interviewed on CBC, meet with officials of the Toronto District School Board and talk with youth community workers at a school in Regent Park.

“We’re outraged that the government of Canada denied entry to professor Ayers,” said Jim Turk, executive director at the Canadian Association of University Teachers.

Ayers mentioned no other country except Canada has stopped him from visiting in the past.

“In the last year, I’ve travelled to 10 different countries in four different continents. My passport is stamped with Canada all over it ... I’ve been [to Canada] over 20 times in the last 20 years,” Ayers said.

He added it is the third time the Canadian government had barred him from entering.

“It’s ironic. On the day that Barack Obama is being inaugurated as the American president, the Harper government is continuing the Bush legacy,” Turk added.

According to Turk, CAUT has written a letter to the prime minister requesting for an immediate inquiry as to why Ayers was denied entry to the country.

“[We also asked] the prime minister to contact the University of Toronto and advise them that if they should invite professor Ayers again, the government of Canada will ensure his access to the country,” Turk said.

While being detained, Ayers was given two reasons as to why he could not enter Canada.

“[They said] I had a conviction listed in their system from 1969,” Ayers said. “There was also concern from Ottawa that I was involved in an ongoing criminal enterprise.”

Ayers mentioned while he might have been arrested and charged in the 1960s and 70s for taking part in a number of demonstrations, he was never convicted of a felony. He also emphasized he had co-founded Weather Underground " a radical 1960s anti-Vietnam War group " about 40 years ago and deemed it irrelevant.

“There is no way I am a threat to Canada,” Ayers added.

Jeffrey Kugler, executive director of the Centre for Urban Schooling, also felt Ayers posed no danger to “anyone or anything in Canada.”

“[Ayers] was invited to speak about a very educational topic … This was an opportunity to hear from an expert on an issue that is crucial to the students in Toronto schools,” Kugler said.

Both Kugler and Turk believed the incident to be an attack on academic freedom and felt universities should be allowed to invite intellectuals no matter the controversies surrounding them.

Kugler plans to reschedule the lecture once he has received confirmation from the Canadian government to let Ayers enter the country.

“I was terribly disappointed … these young people invited me [and had] worked very hard to put together [a series of] events ... I felt responsible for disappointing them,” Ayers said. “I want to come back and meet my obligation to the University of Toronto.”

Ayers has lawyers in both Canada and the United States and hopes to resolve this issue with the Canadian government.

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