TORONTO - Prominent American academic Bill Ayers has again been prevented from entering Canada, an outcome that should raise red flags for citizens concerned with free and open debate. Ayers was scheduled to deliver a keynote address at today's Worldview Conference on Media and Higher Education in Toronto on June 16, 2011.
"Ontario's university professors and academic librarians are appalled that Canada's borders are becoming a barrier to the free exchange of ideas," said Mark Langer, President of the Ontario Confederation of University Faculty Associations (OCUFA). "Bill Ayers is a respected academic, and in no way a threat to the peace and security of Canada. There is no reason why he should be kept out."
Ayers was, until his retirement last year, Distinguished Professor of Education and Senior University Scholar at the University of Illinois at Chicago and is widely noted for his work to reform elementary education. He gained notoriety in the 1960s and 1970s as one of the founding members of the Weather Underground, a radical militant protest group. In 2009, Ayers was detained by the Canada Border Services Agency and barred from entering Canada. No reason was given for this exclusion. Lawyers working on Ayers' behalf have since tried to secure passage across the border, but have been ‘stonewalled' by Canadian officials. As a result, Ayers has been advised to not attempt another entry into Canada, since the same outcome - detention and expulsion - is almost guaranteed.
"I am disturbed by the apparent inconsistency in the enforcement of Canada's border," said Langer. "In the past, we have admitted Martha Stewart, a convicted felon. Just a few weeks ago, we also let in Geert Wilders, a far-right Dutch politician currently being prosecuted for violations of his country's hate speech laws. Based on this record, one wonders if Ayers is being kept out of Canada for purely political reasons, something that is unacceptable in a free and democratic society."
Worldviews organizers have arranged that participants will still be able to hear Ayers speak, if not in person. The conference is an international initiative to explore the important relationship between higher education and the media. It is held June 16-18, 2011 in Toronto. OCUFA is organizing the conference with the Ontario Institute for Studies in Education at the University of Toronto (OISE/UT), Academic Matters, Inside Higher Ed, and University World News. For more information and a complete speaking list, please visit http://www.worldviewsconference.com.