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Bill Ayers, an expert in urban education based at the University of Illinois at Chicago, was turned away at the border last night, barred from entering Canada to give a lecture this evening. Ayers was invited by the Centre for Urban Schooling (CUS) at OISE to speak on teacher activism and was slated to deliver his talk at the Isabel Bader Theatre in front of an audience of about five hundred. He is also one of the founders of the Weather Underground, a radical-left group established in 1969 that was best known for conducting riots and bombings to protest various American military actions. Charges related to these activities were dropped in 1973, and Ayers has long been a respected member of the academic community in Chicago: named Chicago Citizen of the Year in 1997, Ayers worked closely with Mayor Richard Daley in attempting to reform the city’s school system in the 1990s, and now he is active on the lecture circuit.
Our calls to Canadian Border Services were not returned, nor has CBS issued an official statement on the matter. The Centre for Urban Schooling has been struggling to explain the decision—according to their press release, it was “based apparently on a 1969 conviction during an anti-war demonstration.” Ayers did, however, have all his travel documents in order, and the CUS had no indication that his entry into Canada would be challenged. The Centre views the refusal to deny Ayers entry as a “political decision” and fully intends to follow up with the relevant government officials.
Though Ayers recently came in for a bout of public attention due to some fear-mongering surrounding his support for Barack Obama, there is absolutely no indication that anyone—including the government or police of either this country or the U.S.—thinks that he is currently engaged in any nefarious activities. The decision is one we find particularly perplexing given that Mark Rudd, another co-founder of the Weather Underground, was admitted into the country last year for a discussion at the Toronto International Film Festival. The CUS is asking citizens to write to Peter Van Loan, Minister of Public Safety, to express their concern about what they are describing as an issue of academic freedom.


  • http://null Greg Smith

    Quick correction: it’s Canada Border Services Agency, not Canadian Border Services.

  • http://null Hamutal Dotan

    Thanks for the correction, Greg!

  • http://null Hamutal Dotan

    We did end up hearing from the Canada Border Services Agency just a few moments ago, after this story was published. They cannot comment on the particulars of any specific case, nor could they confirm the status of any travel documents Mr. Ayers had with him when he tried to enter the country. They did tell us that having a criminal record is sufficient grounds for refusing entry, though there are various mechanisms for appeal. In theory at least, Mr. Ayers could file some documents asking for an exception, and try again sometime in the future.

  • http://null RealityCheck

    He’s an admitted terrorist who is responsible for several deaths (though good ones – a work accident blew up a number of Weathermen as they were preparing an assault on Fort Dix). He regrets not doing more, as he said in a NYT interview published September 11th, 2001.
    What Canada should have done is arrest him – he skated on the terrorism thanks to Chicago corruption (his dad was the CEO of the local electric utility and a political heavyweight). Give him the justice that the US refuses to – life imprisonment for acts of war in support of the USSR. Then hopefully we’ll arrest all the treasonous deserters who are clogging up the Annex.

  • http://undefined Paul Kishimoto

    It may disappoint you to learn that you can’t simultaneously be judge, jury, and President of the CBSA.

  • http://null davedave

    Maybe Ayers should have checked ahead about his chances of entering our country, then perhaps he could have make arrangements and gotten permission from higher up ahead of time – if that’s possible. Now he’s just a jackass who let 500 people down. Way to go, dipshit.

  • http://null sniderscion

    RE: various comments above…when did this become Tory-ontoist?

  • http://null scrivie

    He says in a Globe and Mail article that he’s be admitted to Canada before, this seems to be a case of over-zealous border guard. Which is too bad, I was planning on going to hear him speak, it promised to be interesting.

  • http://null montauk

    I am curious about the treasonous deserters clogging up the Annex. Like treason against whom, desertion of what, and clogging up where? Futures Bakery? It’s pretty crowded.

  • http://null Greg Smith

    It stands to reason that checking ahead might actually increase scrutiny, as they’d a) assume you expect to face difficulty for some reason and b) would have plenty of time to dig and find out precisely why.

  • http://null Greg Smith

    Weird, my comment(s?) nested incorrectly.

  • Mark Ostler

    Same thing happened last year, when I was planning to go to see Toots and the Maytals play a show at the Phoenix. I got there the day of and no one was around, there was a big sign saying the show’s been canceled. Apparently he was denied entry for an old criminal charge from 40+ years ago. But I’ve seen him play in Toronto before. Selective enforcement, but I wonder how they pick which folks with criminal records get in and which don’t.


    davedave, dude. You can’t call ahead and book reservations at the border. They either let you in or they don’t.
    Also, it’s good to see someone was paying attention to Sarah Palin.

  • http://null davedave

    urbanennui – uh, yeah, “important” people do it all the time – rock stars, diplomats, other celebrities, etc. They do it through whatever gov’t channel and get letters of permission/etc. that they can flash at the border. Border grunt looks it up on the system and sees yup you have official letter B-46/ww2299xx, so come on in.