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Margin Notes

Congress ’09 – Ayers denied entry, again

Education professor and former radical William Ayers has been denied an entry permit to speak at the Congress of the Humanities and Social Sciences in Ottawa.

BY LÉO CHARBONNEAU | MAY 22 2009

I’ll be blogging most of next week from the Congress of the Humanities and Social Sciences at Carleton University in Ottawa. The 62-page delegate’s guide is pretty daunting – and that covers only a small fraction of the more than 4,000 sessions on offer from dozens of academic associations.

One session I was certainly intrigued by was a planned talk by William Ayers. He’s a professor of education at the University of Illinois at Chicago, but most will know him from last fall’s U.S. presidential campaign when Republican vice-presidential candidate Sarah Palin tried to link him to Barack Obama, claiming Mr. Obama was “palling around with terrorists.” Mr. Ayers was one of the founders of the Weather Underground, whose members took credit for bombings to protest the Vietnam War four decades ago.

Mr. Ayers was invited to Ottawa by the Canadian Society for the Study of Education (CSSE). His talk, scheduled for May 23, was entitled Bridges and Borders: Democratic Education in a Time of Crisis.”

But that’s not to be. The Ottawa Citizen reported yesterday that Mr. Ayers was denied an entry visa. He was also denied entry to Canada this past January, when he was scheduled to give a talk at the University of Toronto.

More from the Citizen article:

Nathalie Des Rosiers, president of the Canadian Federation for the Humanities and Social Sciences and an expert in constitutional law at the University of Ottawa, said she understands Ayers was barred through discretionary application of a piece of immigration legislation, but she has no details about the case.

Occasionally, a scholar will require a visa to come to Canada, but usually only those who live in nations where this is a requirement – not the United States, said Des Rosiers.

“Certainly we foster free speech,” she said. “We invite people from all over the world.”

Carol Miles, the program chair at the CSSE, said Mr. Ayes has offered to deliver his Monday lecture by video conference, but I’ve heard no confirmation on whether that will happen.

Update, May 22, 12:20 p.m.: the Ottawa Citizen has a follow-up story on Ayers today. Apparently his Canadian lawyer warned him he would be turned away at the airport.

ABOUT LÉO CHARBONNEAU
Léo Charbonneau
Léo Charbonneau is the editor of University Affairs.
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