By Matthew Oxman
Skeptics of the official 9/11 account will meet on campus this week for a four-day event, culminating on Sept. 11 — the 10-year anniversary of the terror attacks in New York and Washington, D.C.
“If I had my choice, I wish it wasn’t here,” said Ryerson President Sheldon Levy.
The event, which is sponsored by the Texas-based International Centre for 9/11 Studies, will be held in the International Living and Learning Centre (ILLC) beginning on Thursday, Sept. 8.
The group has been criticized for being insensitive to mourners of 9/11 victims, as well as those who have lost friends and family to the war in Afghanistan — a response to the 9/11 attacks that Canada now plays a non-combative role in.
Political professor Anver Saloojee said it needs to be clear that Ryerson is not hosting the event.
“Universities are about academic freedom and engaging in difficult questions, but it’s not Ryerson engaging in these questions,” he said.
But Levy has no doubts there will be criticism.
The group will present evidence of various 9/11 conspiracy theories to a five-member panel that will then, on the last day of the hearings, submit a report.
The event is already sold out, but it will be streamed live and for free on its official website.
“We wanted the world, in a sense to be our venue,” said Graeme MacQueen, a member of the organizing committee. He explained that reaching a larger number of people worldwide via the web was more important to the hearing committee than reaching a large audience in person. A DVD recording of the hearings will also be made available for purchase.
On the hearings’ website, Toronto was chosen as a host city to make it clear that the event is an international one. Also three of the panel members are Canadian. But organizers also wanted a location not too far away from New York so that victims’ family members ccould more easily attend.
MacQueen, who is from Hamilton, says the committee chose to rent space at Ryerson because the campus is conveniently located downtown, modern and “easy to deal with.”
MacQueen said the school in general also, “seems to us to be broad-minded.”
Providing this forum for free speech is one of the hallmarks of this university, according to Levy.
A standard fee is being charged to the event’s organizers. Ryerson Conference Services refused to comment any further on details on these costs citing privacy issues.
This group is not the only organization to raise speculation of the 9/11 attacks. Saloojee said there is a whole body of literature written on 9/11 and the unpreparedness of the Bush administration.
Third-year fashion design student Miriam Baker says Ryerson should have said no to holding the event on campus.
“I think it’s disgusting. I think they would probably deny the Holocaust as well,” she said. “I wouldn’t support it. It’s one of those things that makes me angry.”
Justin Black, a third-year radio and television arts student and member of the army reserves, has many colleagues who either have or intend to participate in the war in Afghanistan.
Although Black said the notion that the U.S. government planned the terror attacks — a common 9/11 conspiracy — is silly, he does not find the hearings offensive.
“This thing needs to be allowed, and even encouraged,” he said. But Black says fellow members of the army might be offended by the event and its timing.
“It’s part of the democratic process,” he said.
Who are the 9/11 skeptics?
• A not-for-profit organization dedicated to the scientific study of the attacks in New York and Washington on Sept. 11, 2001
• Their mission is to provide knowledge and to encourage a clearer understanding of the 9/11 attacks
• The group bases most of their research in engineering and physical sciences
• Past and current projects include a 26-page response to the National Institute of Standards and Technology’s (NIST) report explaining the collapse of the World Trade Center, they are actively promoting the release of all evidence that has been considered by government agencies involved in the investigations including video and photographic evidence, and is funding scientific research such as chemical analysis of The World Trade Center debris
• In 2009 the group filed a lawsuit against the NIST to try to obtain photographs and video footage during their investigation
• Some skeptics believe that World Trade Center Tower 7 was brought down by controlled demolition based on video evidence