William Ayers

[Feb 17, 2009 04:01 PM]

William Ayers, a professor of education at Chicago’s University of Illinois and a leader in educational reform, was denied entry into Canada on January 18, 2009 at Toronto Island’s airport.


According to Jeffrey Kugler, executive director of the Centre for Urban Schooling at the University of Toronto’s Ontario Institute for Studies in Education who had invited this eminent professor and well-known author to give a conference on January 19, 2009, he was turned back apparently because of a conviction stemming from a 1969 anti-war demonstration.  


Professor Ayers is a founding member of the 60s radical group the Weather Underground. His name was mentioned during the U.S. presidential campaign, cited by former Republican vice-presidential hopeful Sarah Palin as proof that President Barack Obama had links to terrorism as Mr. Ayers had hosted a meet-the-candidate event at his home during Obama’s run for the state Senate in 1985.


“I got off the plane like everyone else and I was asked to come over to the other side,” he said from Chicago. “The border guards reviewed some stuff and said I wasn't going to be allowed into Canada,” adding that he “couldn't possibly be a threat to Canada.” Mr. Ayers said he has visited Canada before without problems.


Toronto lawyer Paul Copeland said he spent many hours trying to convince Canadian border officials to allow his client to enter Canada but without success. I tried to speak to the supervisor who was Pearson airport. I know there were discussions with higher-ups in Ottawa but I was never able to convince them to let him in, or to even speak to my client.”


Mr. Copeland pointed out that border officials could have let professor Ayers in under a temporary resident’s permit but they declined. (See Mike Miles’ story.)


In a letter sent to Prime Minister Stephen Harper, the Canadian Association of University Teachers called for an investigation into Canada’s refusal to allow the professor to visit Toronto is a violation of academic freedom.


According to Mr. Kugler, Mr. Ayers had planned to speak about educational reform and the importance of President Obama’s inauguration that was happening the following day.