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Mr. Ayers was scheduled to deliver a keynote address at the Worldview Conference on Media and Higher Education this Thursday in Toronto. Conference organizers say Mr. Ayer’s refused entry should “should raise red flags for citizens concerned with free and open debate.”
“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,” said Mark Langer, President of the Ontario Confederation of University Faculty Associations (OCUFA), who is hosting the event.
Mr. Ayers was barred from entering Canada in 2009 after touching down at Toronto City Centre Airport. At the time, he said he had entered Canada dozens of time before without incident.
Mr. Ayers has hired Canadian and American lawyers in unsuccessful attempts to lobby the Canadian Border Services Agency for passage into the country. Advised by his lawyers that he would likely be held at the border, he did not attempt a crossing this time around.
In the late 1960s, Mr. Ayers co-founded the Weather Underground, a radical group that collaborated on a series of bombings aimed at banks, monuments and government buildings, including the Pentagon and US capitol.
Nobody was killed in Weather Underground attacks, although members did paralyze at least one man.
Mr. Ayers was never convicted of any felony related to the group’s activities.
During the 1990s, Mr. Ayers was involved in educational reform in Chicago. In 1997, Chicago awarded Mr. Ayers the Citizen of the Year award for his work. Until his retirement last year, Mr. Ayers was a distinguished Professor of Education and Senior University Scholar at the University of Illinois at Chicago.
According to Citizenship and Immigration Canada, foreign nationals are barred from entering Canada if they were involved “in criminal activity, in human rights violations or in organized crime.”
During the 2008 presidential campaign, Democratic presidential candidate Barack Obama was criticized for once serving on a Chicago charitable board with Ayers. Then-Republican vice presidential candidate Sarah Palin accused Mr. Obama at the time of “palling around” with an “unrepentant domestic terrorist.”
”I don’t regret setting bombs,” said Bill Ayers in a New York Times interview, coincidentally published on September 11, 2001. He added that he would not “discount the possibility” of doing it again.
In a later statement, Mr. Ayers maintained that he was not a terrorist. “We were not engaged in a campaign to kill and injure people indiscriminately, spreading fear and suffering for political ends,” he wrote.