Transcript: Marquee Moments in Public Service History: 9/11
[The CSPS logo appears. "Marquee Moments in Public Service History" Text is shown that reads "September 11, 2001". A slideshow of images from 9/11 is shown. Four empty chairs are shown before Taki Sarantakis, Margaret Bloodworth, and Louis Ranger take their seats.]
[A title card is shown that reads « Moments marquants de l'histoire de la fonction publique ». Text is shown that reads « 11 septembre 2001 ».]
Taki Sarantakis: Very powerful images that I'm sure many of us will never forget. Depending on your age, this is kind of probably the public event of your lifetime.
We're here today to talk about September 11th and its aftermath but we're more particularly here to talk about the lessons of crisis and how the state mobilizes and how...
[Taki Sarantakis adjusts his microphone, which is causing feedback.]
Is this me? Oh my gosh.
How the state mobilizes and how...
I don't know what to do. Can I maybe ask somebody from technology to come up?
How the state mobilizes- this is quite funny, how the state mobilizes and how we are able to react, anticipate, and mobilize the powerful resources of the state to deal with problems.
I'm going to start by introducing Margaret Bloodworth who, on that fateful day, was Deputy Minister of Transport Canada.
[A technician arrives and readjusts Taki Sarantakis' microphone.]
Margaret, what time did you get to the office that day?
Margaret Bloodworth: Well, I didn't start my day at the office. I started my day at a meeting at Industry Canada. It started at 8:00 that morning. I was at the office probably a few minutes after 9:00.
Taki Sarantakis: And when did you hear about the first plane?
Margaret Bloodworth: Well, I had- a woman came into the meeting at Industry Canada, called me out, I thought to take a phone call, but when we got outside the door, she simply said, I think you should see this and she took me to an office nearby where there was a TV playing, and it was the aftermath of the first plane that hit.
So, I remember standing there for a few moments just trying to figure out what was going on because it was quite chaotic. The news- I think this was actually camera footage from people there. The news crews were just getting there.
And as I stood there, I saw the second plane hit the second tower, which was at 9:03, I believe, and it was very obvious that this was a large passenger plane flying at full speed into the middle of a large tower. So, it was very obvious to me this was not an accident. This was deliberate.
Taki Sarantakis: And what were your thoughts? So, this is deliberate? Somebody's attacking? Somebody's- what?
Margaret Bloodworth: I don't think I had a lot of thoughts. We didn't know very much which is hard to imagine. I was saying to some of you before, when you go back over kind of material getting ready for today, it's hard to realize how little we knew those first few moments. I just knew I had to get back to the office. So, it's about a block and a half to our office. I walk back, and walking back, I remember talking to the DG of Security because many people were out of town that day. It was the week before the House came back. So, there was a lot of people traveling.
Taki Sarantakis: And then 9:37, a plane lands in the Pentagon. So, in about half an hour, you've seen or heard three airplanes crashing into, two in New York and one now in Washington. At that point, what are you thinking?
Margaret Bloodworth: Well, I remember the Pentagon hit being quite, the word, disruptive. The others were a shock but now it was clear it was bigger than New York. It was clear there were still more planes up there, didn't know how many. It was not easy to contact the Americans because the senior Americans at least had been taken to bunkers with good justification. The staff were in touch with the FAA and so on. I had already had staff talking before that about the possibility of landing planes which was not a thought that would have occurred to anybody the week before, but they were already thinking that as was the Americans.
And I remember thinking, well, that's it. We do have to land all the planes.
Taki Sarantakis: And then the last plane on public record, at 10:03, a plane crashes into a field in Pennsylvania, and so at this point, two in New York, one in Washington.
And at this point, it's clear to you we're at war, somebody's attacking us, still kind of the fog of war, to use that phrase.
Margaret Bloodworth: I don't think I thought a lot at that stage about the motives or what the bigger picture was. There was too much to do right then, and before the Pennsylvania plane crashed, we had already started landing planes and were dealing with the ones on the Atlantic which were going to be a huge issue.
Taki Sarantakis: Yeah. Now, Mr. Ranger.
Louis Ranger: Yes.
Taki Sarantakis: Biggest day in the history of transportation, you're the Associate Deputy Minister of Transport Canada but you're not at work.
Louis Ranger: No.
Taki Sarantakis: Where are you?
Louis Ranger: I was in Montréal. There was an amazing conference with 2,000 people that was held by an organization called "Airport Council International." People were in high spirits that morning at the Palais des congrès because, the day before, we had had an amazing dinner at Mirabel Airport, which was empty, and so 2,000 people, superb food, amazing wine, Ginette Reno and André-Philippe Gagnon—it was exhilarating. And so, on the morning of September 11, a Tuesday with very nice weather, I was on the steps of the Palais des congrès waiting for the minister.
I was waiting for the Minister because the Minister was the first speaker and he had decided to fly from Ottawa on a-
Taki Sarantakis: Even though he loved trains.
Louis Ranger: But he loved Transport Canada aircraft so he flew on a Transport Canada aircraft, Ottawa, Norval, and then somebody picked him up in the region, driving in to Palais des congrès.
I was a bit nervous because heavy traffic, so is he going to make it? Sure enough, arrives on time. I chat a bit, he asked me a few questions about his speech, I take him to- it's a huge hall, and by that time, the room was filling. He was speaking around 8:30, it starts a bit late.
So, I was sitting in the front row with typically the first rows being empty, only because the Minister was quite comfortable speaking, knew his stuff, and would love to take questions, and he didn't mind having an official not too far in case.
So, I was sitting right there. He starts his speech. I thought it was a pretty good speech, following him page by page, and then I feel a presence next to me and it was a VP from [inaudible], and he says something like, Louis, a plane has hit an office tower in New York, your minister's speaking, I don't know what to do, over to you.
That's the truth, and it was a stage like this except it was extremely high, like four or five feet high. It was dark. I couldn't see the stairs. I guess, normally, I would just kind of stood up and go to the Minister and stand there and you would have stopped, but I didn't know the stairs were not there.
So, look, these are fractions of seconds.
Taki Sarantakis: Right. So, people are starting to mumble, in Minister Collenette's recollection. He's giving a speech. He says it wasn't a particularly terrible speech, so he couldn't understand why the audience wasn't paying attention. So, the audience is kind of grumbling, mumbling-
Louis Ranger: There was agitation at the back.
And I forgot to say, as Steve mentioned that to me, I said a plane has hit what? And he was gone. So, I said, what did he tell me exactly? A plane has hit something?
There was a moderator, Paul Benoit, who is President of the Ottawa Airport, sitting there. I decided to scribble a note and waved and handed it over, and sure enough, he came and took the note.
Taki Sarantakis: Now, Minister Collenette has written some reflections on this. He wrote an article in Maclean's and this note is this famous note. In two or three different places, it purports to have said that you handed it to him and it was- somebody wrote in your very distinctive scrawl, so it was clear that it was from you, and the note is supposed to have said, "Wind up your speech. There has been a tragedy." Is that what the note said?
Louis Ranger: Well, maybe Shakespeare would write it that way, but I wouldn't. [laughter] So, here's what I wrote.
Taki Sarantakis: So, this is what you wrote.
So, you wrote, and having worked for you in the past, I remember this handwriting. It still is very distinctive, "Minister, a plane has hit an office tower. Wind up your speech. Do not take questions. Do not talk to reporters. Talk to Louis."
Margaret Bloodworth: Who knew nothing either.
Taki Sarantakis: Exactly.
Louis Ranger: And I think that's important because my first reaction was this is a light aircraft that has hit an office tower, it happens, and in fact, two months after 9/11, it did happen and you have a picture with a little airplane with a tail sticking out, no fire, presumably a couple of casualties but nothing major. So, we didn't know.
Taki Sarantakis: So, you're with your minister, Margaret is in Ottawa. I imagine Minister Collenette, he kind of excused himself and you guys jump, I guess, into a car.
Louis Ranger: By that time, I had got around and found the stairs and I grabbed some information that it was the World Trade Centre, and sure enough, by that time, it was more than agitation. There was a really huge crowd of reporters and lots of cameras, and the Minister comes out and he says hold this light.
And he admits today that it was the worst scrum of his life, and it was.
So, he started to say, well, we don't know what it is, but if it is an act of terrorism- and he went on, and it is on tape-
Taki Sarantakis: So, he disregarded your note completely.
Louis Ranger: That's right.
Taki Sarantakis: So, he's talking to reporters-
Louis Ranger: By that time, and this is on tape, unfortunately, I came close to him and grabbed him by the shoulder and pulled him out of the scope of the cameras, and I say, we got to go, and the Minister said, we got to go.
Taki Sarantakis: Alright. So, you've yanked your minister off stage and then you physically-
Louis Ranger: So, as we are going down the escalators, I think, Margaret, we're still debating whether it's Margaret or our original DG, somebody mentioned a second plane has hit. So, by that time it's past 9:03 and that's when we decide we got to head to Ottawa because the Minister's schedule was, after the speech, he was going back to Norval and then heading off to Toronto on a commercial flight.
Taki Sarantakis: So, now you're in the car. Do you have BlackBerrys?
Louis Ranger: We have huge phone with big batteries.
So, there's a driver, and I have a story about that, Robert [inaudible], and the Minister's sitting on the front seat because he wanted to be able to use his phone.
[Louis Ranger's jacket rubs against his microphone.]
Taki Sarantakis: I think you're having the same issue I had. Just move your jacket a little.
[Louis Ranger adjusts his jacket.]
Louis Ranger: Okay.
Taki Saranakis: Yeah, there you go.
Louis Ranger: And at the back, Marie-Hélène Lévesque- is Marie-Hélène here?
So, Marie-Hélène was a special assistant to the Minister at the time, and myself. We were four in the car and we hit the road. Now, it was not fun at the time but that poor driver was told, you're not going back to Norval, we're heading to Ottawa. He had never been to Ottawa, or if he had, it was a long time ago.
But anyway, I'll carry on later but basically-
Taki Sarantakis: So, I imagine the first phone call was to your deputy?
Louis Ranger: Oh my God, of course. Well, no, the truth be said, at that time, the ministry was definitely in touch with Margaret who had much more information, much more information than me.
Margaret Bloodworth: But I talked to Louis before they were in the car.
Louis Ranger: Yes.
Margaret Bloodworth: Because I wanted to speak to the Minister, but he said we're on the way, get in the car, and I said, fine, get in the car first. It's more important you get on the way. There's nothing new right at the moment. I'll talk to the minister once he gets in the car.
Taki Sarantakis: Now, Margaret, who are you talking to in these early hours?
[A technician arrives and readjusts Louis Ranger's microphone.]
Margaret Bloodworth: Mostly the DG of Security because there were a lot of people out of town, I mentioned. I had heard about Louis and the Minister, but the ADM Safety and Security was in China at a marine safety conference and there was an acting ADM, but he happened to be the DG of Dangerous Goods. So, I talked directly to the DG, I think even before I got back to the office, but certainly by the time I got in the office.
It was also a day where PSAC was running rotating strikes and they had shut Transport Canada down. So, when I walked back to the office, there were long lines of people they were going through what strikes usually do, they made each person kind of identify themselves that came in.
Fortunately, I had been at Transport I think for three and a half, four years at that stage. So, there was- just as I came up kind of thinking about how I was going to approach this, a guy from the mailroom who knew me said, oh, Mrs. Bloodworth, come this way, and opened the door for me, which I'm sure he was a picketer, so I'm sure that was not part of the instructions he'd been given, but he knew me and he let me in.
Taki Sarantakis: And to their credit, PSAC- the moment it became clear what was happening, PSAC employees dropped the picket signs and started running back to their departments, including at Transport Canada.
Margaret Bloodworth: But even before they officially did that, at the Transport Canada site, they were already facilitating anybody who had anything to do with security or safety getting in right away.
Taki Sarantakis: So, now you're starting to mobilize your team. You have an operations room, and at the time, I think Transport Canada is one of the few departments in government that actually had an operations room.
Margaret Bloodworth: That's right. There weren't a lot. I mean, Defence obviously had one but there were not a lot and it was not that long since Transport had owned all the major airports, Nav Canada. So, in fact, they had a response capacity that was probably bigger than their size then warranted, but that was an important factor in mobilizing because it wasn't just here, it was also in the regions. They all had operation centres and they all mobilized right away.
Taki Sarantakis: Exactly. Had you kind of done emergency planning before as an organization? Had you kind of run different scenarios?
Margaret Bloodworth: Well, Transport- and I assume they still do it to this day because there's always a crisis of some kind in Transport. So, they regularly do that and there's no question in my mind that that helped. They didn't need me to mobilize the emergency situation centre.
Taki Sarantakis: So, the machine kind of cranks up.
Margaret Bloodworth: So, they regularly did that. I mean, we'd had the Swissair disaster not too long before that. So, that's something they did regularly and they mobilized, and there's no question that was a big help in responding.
Taki Sarantakis: And this wasn't the first kind of airline tragedy with a big security angle. I guess for most of us in the room, the one that we would remember prior to 9/11 was Air India.
And in some respects, would Air India be kind of a precursor in terms of how your organization kind of deals with these things or dealt with a situation like this? Like, were there lessons from Air India?
Margaret Bloodworth: Well, there were certainly a lot of things changed in Transport way before my time because of Air India. Air India was about luggage that was put on a plane without a passenger attached to it. So, we had probably the toughest rules in the world about matching passengers and planes, but I always think of security and airlines as kind of three phases. I'm sure there's more than that.
But there was the hijackers of the sixties and seventies. All the instructions were, cooperate with the hijackers, that's the pilots and the crew, and let people know because there were buttons to let them know that they were hijacked, but don't confront them and so on.
The next phase was Air India which was about people shipping things on planes, but what happened here was, of course, people that were prepared to die themselves and commit suicide in the process of doing a lot of damage, which we were not- nobody in the world had airline regulations to prevent that.
Louis Ranger: We seem to forget that Air India- before 9/11, Air India was the deadliest aviation terrorism act ever worldwide.
Taki Sarantakis: Something like 300 people.
Louis Ranger: 328, most were Canadians.
And it remains, as of today, the single largest mass killing in Canadian history, as of today, by a long shot. So, it did influence- so, we had all kinds- we were first in the world to have matching passengers and baggage. We were doing background checks on employees at airports, in restricted areas, searching bags, of course, and quite a few things that other countries didn't have.
Taki Sarantakis: So, in the early hours now, your minister is away, your ADM of Safety and Security is away. Some of your employees are on strike, some are starting to man the Situation Room. You said the machine kind of starts gearing up.
I'll go back to the earlier question, who were you talking to at this point? Were you kind of making phone calls or were you taking phone calls? Let's start with kind of Nav Can. Tell us a little bit about what Nav Can does and how you interacted?
Margaret Bloodworth: Okay. Well, I think it was both. I certainly talked to the Minister at least three times, I think, while he was in the car, but the first time I recall talking to Nav Can is when we decided to ground the planes. I picked up the phone and called John Crichton, who was the head of Nav Can, because I thought it was important they know, at the top, this was not some junior officials or inspectors deciding this. This was actually a decision we were making.
Now, he was obviously on-side. He didn't give me any argument at all. He said it's underway, we'll do it. So, it was a very brief call because he had a lot of things to do at that stage.
Then, I don't remember all the calls I made in which order but I do recall that once the decision was made that the planes across the Atlantic, which was a huge number, half of them, the ones that could go back and had enough fuel to go back would go back to Europe, but that still left something like 228 coming, most of which were bound to the U.S. but the U.S. was not going to allow them in their airspace.
So, the decision was that they were to be grounded as soon as they hit land. I remember saying send them all to Goose Bay and Gander, and I was reminded rightfully by one official who said, well, Margaret, they actually won't all fit there, and they were right.
But we did send- like, 38 planes went to Gander. So, I knew that Gander and- the one I remember is Stephenville, I think, which clears, by immigration, something like the average of 37 people a day, had all of a sudden 1700 to clear. So, obviously, they did not have immigration and border staff to do that. So, I remember talking to the deputies in those departments in order to say, you know, we're going to have to move people. We used transport flights to do that.
Louis Ranger: I know this is a bit of an anecdote but, while this is all happening, we're on the 417 in this Dodge Caravan, a Grand Caravan, and Margaret is talking to the minister and the minister is trying to contact Pierre Moreau of course. We're all on the phone but, in the meantime, we're listening to the radio and, okay, but between the Pentagon and Pennsylvania, there were rumours that there was a plane heading for the White House and so, three or four items of bad news and, each time, Robert Rivard, our driver who was a safety inspector, pressed the accelerator a little harder each time. And so, got to Hawkesbury, I think we were going about 140 kilometres per hour and, there, we realized that we had to ease up. And the story that was told afterwards was that they were old phones and so we got to Castleman—
Taki Sarantakis: Did you stop at the Tim Hortons?
Louis Ranger: No, the batteries for the four phones were running low and we hadn't seen anything yet—we hadn't seen any images so it was hard to grasp what was happening. And with all the rumours on the radio and from Castleman, we no longer had communication, and we were travelling at full speed and that was beneficial to some extent because, when we had time to breathe a little, we had no further news and we arrived in Ottawa. And the driver had never been to Ottawa. So, to get to Tower C, the minister was in the front seat saying, "Turn right... Turn left."
Taki Sarantakis: Now, the airplanes that had enough fuel to go back went back. The ones, I guess, that were crossing the Atlantic and the Pacific kept coming. The Americans weren't going to take them. Did we volunteer? Did the Americans ask us? Did the Americans tell us? How did that work?
Margaret Bloodworth: No, the Americans didn't. They were under attack and therefore, they had taken, I think with some justification, their senior people, including the Secretary of Transport, the Deputy Secretary of Transport, into bunkers somewhere in Washington. They simply said they're not coming into the U.S., we're not admitting any planes, and they grounded everything that was in the U.S.
So, it wasn't a question of telling us, it was a question of the planes were there and we obviously weren't going to let them fall in the water. So, the only option they had was to land here. The choice we had is where we wanted to land them.
Taki Sarantakis: So, now, the planes are starting to land and you talked about Stephenville that ordinarily would take 30 people a day and all of a sudden has 1700 and the most famous, obviously, is Gander, which has actually even become a wonderful musical for those of you who are looking for something to do. It's coming to Ottawa. It's a remarkable, remarkable story called Come From Away.
Now, the planes are landing, not a lot of capacity in these places as you mentioned, and there's kind of the question of what do you do with these people? So, do you kind of just let them get off the plane and walk around Stephenville and Gander?
Margaret, you mentioned the Americans are under the impression that we're at war. So, potentially some of these people, you don't know who they are.
Louis, tell us a little bit about that. I understand you had some pressure to open doors on airplanes.
Louis Ranger: Okay, I will tell this story only to make one point for posterity. When you see those crises, most of the time it does bring the best out of people, it does, but occasionally- and there's always exceptions to the rule, occasionally, there are situations where it does bring the worst.
So, I don't want to go into too much details, but for the record. Now, fast forward, it's 1 a.m., September 12th. I'm sitting in Margaret's office, Margaret's on the phone. Her other phone rings and she just takes the phone, picks up the phone.
[Louis Ranger gestures picking up a phone.]
And a very senior person in government asked to speak to Margaret, and I said Margaret's on the phone. "Who's talking?" Louis, Louis Ranger? "Look, Louis, I hear that there are still people sitting on aircraft in Gander. They've been sitting there for 16 hours. Is that true?" And there's flight number so and so.
I said, "Yeah, that flight actually has 325 people on board," and he said, "Louis, listen to me, those people need to get off that aircraft within 60 minutes." And I said, "Well, look, so, you're saying we should get them out? We don't have clearance."
And the only alternative would be to bring- by the time we do this, it's two or three in the morning, we bring them to the nearest hangar. I think it's got a few wooden benches, a cement floor. You check the weather tonight, September 12th in Newfoundland, it's not a warm night but you expect people to sit on the floor, sleep on the floor, on cement. I think there must be a washroom, nothing to drink, no water, no food.
Plan B is to leave them on the aircraft in the comfort of their seat. There's food, something to drink, they can actually watch videos, and they are being informed on an hourly basis of how things are unfolding.
And he said, "Louis, I don't want to hear this." He said, "Get those people off that aircraft within the hour." And then he uttered some rather threatening words that I'd rather not repeat, and I paused and he said, "Do you hear me?" I said, "Yes, I heard you and I sure hope you heard me. Go to bed, sleep well."
So, this did happen. It's part of the history and we just did what we had to do. It just didn't seem to make sense and we just went with our instinct, right?
Margaret Bloodworth: Well, there was also the point- and that was much earlier in the day because I was one of those that said people are not getting off the planes until we can have Immigration and Customs check, and we had to move police officers too.
And because we didn't know who was on the plane, as it turned out, we didn't find anybody that was suspicious but we didn't know that at the time, and I have to say, some of them did sit on the planes for 16 hours. They were brought food and water by the- thank God for the people of Newfoundland.
But I never had a single complaint from a passenger, not a single complaint, because I think when people realized the magnitude of what had happened, they were just glad they were on the ground and that their plane wasn't one of those.
So, I think, for me, you have to do what you are convinced is the right thing to do and sometimes people won't like that but- like, sometimes you will be criticized but you have to do what you feel is right at the time.
Taki Sarantakis: There were a few other moments. So, you have hard and fast rules, all airplanes are grounded, nothing's taking off, nothing's landing, what have you, but there were a few exceptions, and Margaret, tell us. There was one involving the Minister of Foreign Affairs.
Margaret Bloodworth: That's right and John Manley has talked about this himself. He was on a plane crossing the Atlantic because he had been at a foreign ministers meeting of some kind in Europe and as he was crossing the Atlantic, I guess first of all, the flight attendants came and brought him up to the kitchen area and he describes them as being quite agitated and told him what happened, and he reinforced that they should not tell the passengers.
I should say all the passengers on the planes being landed did not know what had happened until they landed. It was not as easy to contact planes in those days as it now, and that was right because you don't need people panicking in the air, and I think he sat up with the pilots because those were days you could- they even brought kids up to sit with pilots in those days and watched it.
And his plane was allowed to go to Toronto because it was important he come back to Ottawa, so the plane continued to Toronto and then the military flew him back to Ottawa.
Taki Sarantakis: And then there was, I think, another exception for Lawrence MacAulay who was the Solicitor General at the time, I guess the equivalent of the Minister of Public Safety today.
Margaret Bloodworth: I don't remember the details of that. He may have been flown back on a Transport aircraft actually.
Taki Sarantakis: So, I think one of the lessons here is you kind of know your business. You've been at Transport Canada since before the dinosaurs and so you kind of had some credibility to be able to say to the powers that be, look, sleep well, I'm not doing that tonight.
Louis Ranger: Yes.
Taki Sarantakis: Which is tough for people in the room, and so this is like your third or fourth tough thing in less than 24 hours, including kind of yanking your minister off of stage, including physically yanking your minister away from reporters.
A couple of things that kind of are on the public record that day but maybe not as well remembered, around 1:30, there's a report that there was a hijacked plane from Korea.
Margaret Bloodworth: Yes.
Taki Sarantakis: And it was like, so, okay, now this is international too, and tell us a little bit about that plane because it ended up in an interesting spot.
Margaret Bloodworth: It ended up in Whitehorse. I remember that very well. I think I must have been in the Situation Centre at some point during it because I remember thinking- because it was being followed by the fighter jets, our fighter jets, and I remember thinking, they're seriously looking at shooting down the passenger aircraft. Now, they didn't. I think people all acted with prudence. It was two aircraft, I think, only one of which had triggered the signal somehow that they were-
Taki Sarantakis: And Prime Minister Chrétien actually is on the record as saying he had informally given the authorization to shoot down the aircraft.
Margaret Bloodworth: Because there was no formal process at this stage. There was after 9/11 but there was not a formal process for authorizing jets to shoot down passenger planes, but I remember feeling very relieved when this plane landed.
Now, people did the right thing and the police were all mobilized and so on, but it was a tense moment and several days of tense moments.
Louis Ranger: I think what we need to talk about is this is 2001. We've learned to manage crises much better in the last 18 years. Prime Minister Chrétien deliberately chose to take a low-profile approach.
Taki Sarantakis: I'm going to park that because we're going to go past September 11th in a few minutes.
Louis Ranger: Okay, but the point I guess that I want to make is that because of that position, we were pretty much left on our own to do what we thought was the right thing to do, except that exception that I mentioned, without being told what to do nor being told that what we were doing was wrong. We were just left on our own. It was a very kind of lonely position to be in, certainly for Margaret.
Taki Sarantakis: Now, I'm going to ask you to do a little bit of a thought experiment. You just mentioned, Louis, that it's 2001. There are no BlackBerrys, there's no iPhones, there's no text. Tell us a little bit- speculate a little bit how different that day would have been if you did have a BlackBerry, if you did have an iPhone, would it have been the case that you wouldn't have been left maybe as alone to make decisions?
Margaret Bloodworth: Well, it's hard to judge. I would say, though, that in any crisis of any magnitude, the worst thing you can do is try and micromanage the people on the ground trying to do their job. You may decide they're not doing a good enough job and have to replace them, but micromanaging is the worst thing you can do.
So, I saw my job a good part of that week- because it was not just a day, that four days kind of blurred into one day with a few hours of sleep in between each period, but I saw a big part of my job as clearing the way for people to be able to do what they had to do, because I wasn't going to be able to land the planes. It needed some air navigation people to do that. I wasn't going to be able to manage the airport but I could facilitate that happening, and I still think that's true.
I think that's part of the responsibility of managers, particularly senior managers, is to make sure that those who have to respond have the space they need to do that. Now, that doesn't mean everybody will do everything right and it may mean you have to replace somebody occasionally, but the worst thing is to have six people telling you how you're going to do that job.
Taki Sarantakis: Now, I can ask one more kind of question about the day/the events of the day because, as you say, they all kind of blur together, and I'm going to ask each of you the same question. I'm going to start with Louis.
Louis, what was the hardest decision you remember having to make during that three or four-day period? Maybe you've already told us. Maybe it was the, I'm not letting people off the plane, but if it was something else.
Louis Ranger: The hardest thing to do was just to remain very focused. As Margaret said, it's only later that we realized I was in my first real exposure to evil and chaos. So, we just did what we had to do, not being distracted by all kinds of other things.
But it was hard to work in an environment where by 6:00 on September 11th, we have 225 requests from reporters, for interviews or whatnot, and still nothing from the federal government has still come out substantially and that we eventually agreed to issue some kind of basic press release in time for the evening news and morning newspapers. That's very different.
So, living in that environment where we're just basically left on our own, doing the best we can, I think that was perhaps a moment of solitude that perhaps is what was left with me after all those years.
Taki Sarantakis: Margaret?
Margaret Bloodworth: Well, I agree with focus but I'm not sure I see- I actually see that positive in the sense that indeed, it wasn't that people didn't know what to do. Not only was the department very well equipped and trained but we also had a situation where Louis had been there forever, as you pointed out. I had been there for four years. The Minister had been there for three years. We knew people like John Crichton at Nav Canada. Like, we knew these people and we had relationships with them. So, I think that made it enormously easier to do it but I was very aware that some of those decisions could be wrong.
I said earlier, thank God for the people of Newfoundland. We were well aware we were handing Gander an impossible task and it could have been awful, but it wasn't. I mean, it was an awful day, but thank goodness for the people of Newfoundland.
Taki Sarantakis: Now, in a few minutes we're going to shift to kind of the post-incident and the broader effects on the Government of Canada. I want to talk a little bit, before we leave the incident, talk to us a little bit about the system. You've both kind of mentioned you were a little bit alone. The system didn't mobilize. In one case, the system seemed to be a little bit working against you if I can put words in your mouth. Talk to us a little bit about- we're very used to when something happens, the system kind of gears up, you get the phone call from PCO, you get the phone call from Finance, you get the phone call from Treasury Board. The Minister's office starts saying, okay, we've got to do a press release. We've got to do a tweet. We've got to do this or that.
While you're dealing with the crisis itself, how is the rest of government either helping you or hindering you or even, it sounds like in some cases, being irrelevant?
Margaret Bloodworth: Well, I'm not sure I would agree with that characterization because there were a lot of other departments that mobilized. I mean, a person from Defence would say they mobilized, CSIS mobilized. We just didn't need them right there and they didn't us. I mean, yes, we needed to know intelligence but our primary job was to land the planes and deal with those people at that stage. So, I would more describe it as people mobilized to do the job that they needed to do. I don't know, and people who didn't have anything to do with what needed to be done that day, were off doing something else, I guess.
And certainly, I mean, there was a meeting at PCO that I went to at 9:00 that night that- and then they happened regularly, I think two or three times a day over the next few days, taking stock of where everybody was.
But I think actually, it would not have been helpful to have that the morning of September 11th. There was too much else to do, but by the evening, yes, it was time to take stock.
So, I would not characterize it as the rest of the town not mobilizing. I would characterize it as people mobilizing to do what it was they had to do, and I've heard descriptions of, you know, the military, for example, were mobilized, rightfully so, the police were, and I remember dealing with the immigration and the border department and with the police to make sure they had enough staff there. They were clearly all mobilized.
I think what there wasn't, on that, at least early in that day, there was not a lot of meetings of people in town at my level, certainly, and that was good because we had more than enough to do.
Taki Sarantakis: Exactly. It sounded like you were grateful for that.
Margaret Bloodworth: Yes, but they were mobilized. It wasn't that I felt- every time I called somebody, I had a response immediately and people were very helpful. People were actually very responsive and came as part of the team.
Paul Ranger: When I said remaining focused, for example, the morning of September 12th, I spent a lot of time trying to mobilize the leader of aircraft for Transport Canada to fly inspectors, immigration inspectors, and so on, to those airports that needed them and not focus too much on the fact that, and this is factual, the Prime Minister was on CNN the following day but not to be thanked for having welcomed 33,000 guests that night before, it was to explain that there was no evidence that those terrorists had access to the United States through Canada's porous border.
Okay, that was the issue that the centre had to manage the morning of the 12th, okay? There was a lot of rumours that those terrorists had entered the United States through Canada.
Taki Sarantakis: Yeah, there were actually, and there were also American officials on September 11th who were saying, just as what you've said, that people had come in through Canada, and then there were other U.S. officials that at one point said an airplane has been hijacked from Canada that originated in Canada and that was-
Louis Ranger: Again, for the record, it's been shown and demonstrated that that was not the case. They all came from-
Margaret Bloodworth: And the border, like the land border shut down at some point that day. Well, the centre had to deal with that. I'm sure we'll hear about that with Rob.
So, people were mobilized but it was a kind of crisis where there was enough for everyone to do that didn't require a lot of interaction except for specific things.
Taki Sarantakis: So, now, September 11th was more than just a day. There was a September 12th and then there were years after September 11th, and we're still, in many ways, dealing with the aftermath of September 11th.
But we're going to take a little look and we're going to have another guest come up in a moment to talk about kind of September 12th and maybe the three, four, five, six months after that. So, start on that, please.
[A timeline is shown with text that reads:
The flying ban in Canada is lifted for domestic air travel.
Canada authorizes the American planes that were diverted to Canada to start taking off.
Transport Minister announces increased security at Canadian airports.
Security is beefed up at border crossings with the United States.
NATO invokes Article 5 of the 1949 Washington Treaty, which states that an attack on one ally is an attack against all allies.
Prime Minister Chrétien proclaims September 14 a national day of mourning. International air traffic resumes.
General Motors temporarily shuts down car plants in Ontario due to parts being delayed at the border.
The Solicitor General proposes enacting legislation to curb funding for terrorist groups.
Prime Minister Chrétien and the U.S. Ambassador address a crowd of 100,000 gathered on Parliament Hill to remember the victims.
The last grounded aircraft is cleared to leave Canada.
US President George W. Bush declares war on terrorism.
The House of Commons holds emergency debate to discuss Canada's response to the attack.
President Bush signs legislation authorizing the use of force against those responsible for the September 11 attacks.
Introduction of legislation to impede the financing of terrorist groups.
The United States and United Kingdom launch Operation Enduring Freedom.
Prime Minister Chrétien announces Canada's participation in the U.S.-led invasion into Afghanistan.
Canada's contribution to the military mission is to send 2,000 soldiers, six aircraft and six navy ships.
Canadian immigration officials are given greater power to detain or deport anyone suspected of entering the country illegally.
Bill C‑36 (the Anti-Terrorist Act) is introduced.
Budget 2001 announces a $7.7-billion increase in security spending.
Canada and the United States sign the Smart Border Declaration.
The Anti-Terrorism Act becomes law."]
Taki Sarantakis: So, we can see in that period, again, another theme, the state mobilizing and coming to react to the new environment.
With that, I'd like to invite Rob Fonberg to come up to join us, and for those of you who have been wondering why there's an empty chair there, it's for Mr. Fonberg.
[Rob Fonberg joins the panel on the stage.]
And as he makes his way to the stage, at the time, Rob was Deputy Secretary to the Cabinet of Plans and Priorities, and for those of you in the audience that don't know, Plans and Priorities is the part of PCO that kind of is most responsible for things like the Speech from the Throne, the meetings of full cabinet, and interfacing with Finance Canada on budgets.
Mr. Fonberg, where were you on September 11th, 2001?
Rob Fonberg: I was in the office.
Taki Sarantakis: Were you really?
Rob Fonberg: Unlike Louis here, yeah, I was in the office.
Taki Sarantakis: You were in the office, and how did you hear about this?
Rob Fonberg: You know, there's a PCO staff meeting. I see the recently retired clerk sitting down there every morning at that time, about eight in the morning. For some reason, I said to Margaret I don't think it happened that morning, but there was a call, come down to the clerk's office, probably close to 9:00, and we watched the second plane hit the tower live on TV.
Taki Sarantakis: Now, you're the Dep. Sec. of Cab. of P&P, Deputy Secretary to the Cabinet. Two planes have just hit iconic towers in New York City. What's kind of your role? You're not security, but you are kind of important. So, what are you thinking?
Rob Fonberg: Well, in fact, so, the one person who's not here who I think would have been a real useful kind of voice in the immediate aftermath is Dick Fadden.
And there was no national security advisor, of course, at that time. There was a security and intelligence coordinator in the Privy Council office and that was Dick, and Dick was really the guy who kind of got triggered into action immediately on that day and handled a lot of the urgent kind of transactional things that needed to be handled from a Privy Council Office perspective.
And I had the good fortune or the misfortune of really being, like virtually every public servant in this room who was around at that time, kind of an observer.
And so, yeah, Deputy Secretary to the Cabinet, I know that there were conversations about whether or not the Prime Minister should have had a Cabinet meeting. I think that nobody really had, other than those people who had things that had to be done, it took a little while for people to internalize this and I'm not sure what Mr. Chrétien would have done with a Cabinet meeting at that moment other than have a conversation.
He was criticized, I would say somewhat unduly, but came around three days later with that memorial service on Parliament Hill which probably a lot of these people actually attended and which really, I think, set the stage for what was going to happen in the bilateral relationship with the Americans in the subsequent couple of months.
Taki Sarantakis: You mentioned that there wasn't a Cabinet meeting, and again, that's on public record and the Prime Minister was very heavily criticized at the time. The context was President Bush, the night of the attack, went on and addressed the nation. Prime Minister Blair in the U.K., you couldn't get the TV cameras off of him. He was like on television all the time.
And there were murmurs, there was, where's Canada? Where's the Prime Minister? How come Cabinet isn't mobilizing?
And this kind of, I think, comes back to something that Louis was hinting at before, I asked him to park it for a moment, was I think it's fair to say that the Prime Minister was very much- having been a minister himself for a long time, was very much of the belief that ministers should go and do their jobs.
Rob Fonberg: I think that's probably true. I think he was probably receiving various streams of advice about what exactly he should be doing in that first 24, 48, and 72 hours.
The one thing I would say. So, how exactly he made a decision to do or to handle the situation the way he handled it, I don't think, at the end of the day, it really changed the arc or the trajectory of our response and the initiatives that followed.
Taki Sarantakis: So, now, again, we're in the September 12th era, let's call it that. Do you remember the first meeting you went to on 9/11? Was it that 9:00 meeting? Was it?
Rob Fonberg: I'm pretty sure I was not at that meeting, but for probably the better part of three or four or five or six days, the focus was really the clerk and the security intelligence coordinator, and that was where those immediate, urgent decisions were, to the extent they needed to be kind of discussed.
Taki Sarantakis: So, we're still into incident response.
Rob Fonberg: Basically.
Taki Sarantakis: for three days, four days?
Rob Fonberg: Basically, but it was during that period that the reality started to set in, the line-ups at the Ambassador Bridge, the 15-hour truck line ups and things like that, the closing of the General Motors plant, because of the inventory, kind of just in time delivery stuff. People started to realize there was an existential threat, arguably, on the economic side to Canada, is kind of probably how we saw it, and certainly on the security side with an attack on the homeland in the States.
So, that security/prosperity piece I think was seen very differently in the two countries but there was no debate about the fact that they really went together.
Taki Sarantakis: Yeah. So, at this point we saw a little bit of that. We saw GM close temporarily because they were running out of parts. We saw a little bit, stock markets were going wonky. The fabled fiscal framework was- now, all the assumptions in the fiscal framework were kind of thrown out the window. We had a budget in December and it was a budget that was directly, directly tied back to the events of September 11th.
You mentioned security and prosperity. Talk to us a little bit about that because there was kind of two ways we could have gone post-9/11. We could have thickened the border to the point where it became an iron gate or we could have kind of taken proactive steps to assure our neighbours to the south that our border was a responsible border and that things like traffic on the Ambassador Bridge and crossings should continue.
Rob Fonberg: Yeah, I think if you look back at it, the reality was that the border probably was not operating as efficiently as it should have been, well ahead of 9/11, and there were many things going on in various agencies in Canada, bilaterally with their American counterparts to address many of those issues. Nexus did not start with 9/11. Nexus was being piloted before kind of 9/11 but there were many things going on which were really about modernizing the border, and 9/11 became- and this is the sort of Rahm Emanuel thing which is you always, as best you can, create opportunity out of a crisis, no matter how tragic it actually is.
And so, 9/11 became that opportunity, not in the immediate aftermath, not when we were landing planes, not when we were adding security to the American Embassy, but in the weeks that followed.
And by the time that the Prime Minister visited President Bush in Washington, I think on the 24th, that notion of security and prosperity and the importance of modernizing the border was pretty much locked in as the underpinning logic frame for where went.
Taki Sarantakis: Now, the border is a funny thing because it doesn't belong to any given department. It kind of- you can make an argument today that there's CBSA but if you go back, Transport Canada has a role, CRA kind of has a role or Customs has a role, Immigration has a role, Food inspection has a role, and sometimes when so many people have a role, kind of nobody has a role.
So, you found yourself, in a way, becoming a bit of the coordinating entity for that. Is that fair to say?
Rob Fonberg: Yeah, I think that's fair to say. I think the one thing I would add to that, and I'll come back to that in a second, is there's the border, the physical border, and the reality of post-9/11 was we started to try to move as much screening of people, of goods, of cargo as we could as far away from the border as we could, including all the way to Europe.
So, we had a much better- or our intent was to have a much better understanding of what was in those sea containers when they were leaving Rotterdam, as opposed to let's have a look when they get to Halifax or to New York.
On September the 24th, by that time, both the President and the Prime Minister had agreed that John Manley and Governor Tom Ridge from Pennsylvania, grew up in Erie, could actually see Canada from kind of where he grew up, would take the lead as point people on addressing this issue of security and prosperity. The two of them created small kind of infrastructure capability groups of people inside the White House and inside the Privy Council Office, and we created a small borders task force inside the Privy Council Office.
We were very, very careful to avoid trying to micromanage departments who had good initiatives going. But we did help coordinate and accelerate the implementation and the approval with the Americans. We did try to work. Things were not quite aligned, tried to make sure they were aligned, but we never- we were very careful about stepping into anybody else's shoes.
Manley and Ridge worked extremely well together, and three months and a day post the event, signed that Smart Border Declaration which was about the secure movement of people, the secure movement of goods, secure infrastructure, and the piece that riled a lot of people but it was the right time was about the information intelligence sharing that was required to enable and facilitate those elements of that plan.
Taki Sarantakis: Now, I'm going to bring Louis and Margaret back into this a little bit. So, the border, I guess, the most tangible manifestation of that era and one that we all live through every time we got on an airplane is CATSA. Tell us a little bit about maybe airport screening before CATSA and tell us a little bit about the creation of CATSA, because it's an interesting model too.
Margaret Bloodworth: Well, before, and to some degree immediately afterwards, the screeners at airports, I think, were hired by airports or airlines?
Louis Ranger: Airlines.
Margaret Bloodworth: Airlines, and they were, by and large, minimum wage, casual workers, very loosely trained, and it took CATSA some time to change that but the whole creation of CATSA was, first, we need a public agency that's doing the screening, not the airlines whose primary interest is getting people through and on the planes.
Taki Sarantakis: And quickly.
Margaret Bloodworth: And quickly, which I don't blame them for but that's their interest. So, that was a decision made and it was a decision made that it should be a single entity because we could have used airports, which are also public entities although they're separate corporations.
But there was a very deliberate policy decision made to have a separate agency to do that, and in fact, one of the two RDGs, who came into almost full time for the first three months because we had so much to do, ended up going to CATSA as one of their senior people, and it took some time.
I mean, CATSA, I think, fair to say, creating a new organization is not easy, but they were there to have, first of all, uniform screening training standards, and so on.
Louis Ranger: We thought there was something fundamentally wrong with airlines paying for this because if a flight, Air Canada flight, is late, you know, they get a signal, you know, hurry up, they screen 20 passengers without really looking at them.
The other thing is, under normal circumstances, we probably take six months to look at all the different models of governments. I think we spent about 10 to 12 minutes deciding who should be a Crown corporation, in large part because we were quite familiar with that model and I think it stood the test of time, but it's just the speed at which those decisions were made, it's quite amazing.
Margaret Bloodworth: But I just want to say a word about that. I mean, if you listen to what was said in the video and what's in that period of time, two major pieces of legislation, including the Anti-Terrorism Act which wasn't even a dream in anybody's eye until after September 11th and it was tabled in October and passed in December. There was all kinds. We had to guarantee insurance for airlines. We had to get money to compensate airports, put police and air marshals, and the border had to do a lot, all of you have been involved, and then a budget which is a big deal anyways. A budget was about things that nobody had in mind before September 11th. All of that happened basically in three months.
Now, any of you involved in that government will know that that is a huge pace at which to move, and it took a lot of people. I mean, it wasn't just Transport or it was Justice Department who I'll give full credit for, and they pushed back on a lot of ideas. We had a terrorism legislation because people were scared and I think in the aura of the day, politicians would actually have gone much further, and Justice did a lot of pushing back to say, no, let's just do what we need, but that's a huge job. I mean, Louis has talked about one, CATSA, but there was like 16 things.
Louis Ranger: Out of the 7.7 billion budget for security, there was 2.2 which we scrambled to put together in about ten days, and typically, you go to Finance with your PowerPoint and you expect the worst kind of thing, and to my surprise, you walk in that room and it was just Kevin Lynch and maybe another person.
Taki Sarantakis: Listen to this. This is a great story.
Louis Ranger: And, you know, you just stand up and present your stuff the best you can. You spin it and you know you've built little cushions here and there because they will ask you to reduce it, and Kevin only asked one question. Louis, Margaret, is it enough? $2.2 billion. What he didn't tell us which explains why he said that is that he had already decided that every penny of that was going to be paid by travellers themselves, okay, as it was called, the air traveller security charge, which he didn't disclose at that time. So, hey, 2.2, 2.5.
Taki Sarantakis: So, tell us what you need, the sky's the limit.
Louis Ranger: Well, almost, you know, but there was no challenge, really, on knowing that, you know, there'd be other, you know, spendings, but that's the story. That's the best meeting I ever had with Finance actually.
Rob Fonberg: But the one thing I would say about that budget, in addition to the substantive measures, was that budget was designed as much to speak to the Americans and to give them confidence that we were taking care of our part of the border and our part of business as it was about actually taking care of them.
Louis Ranger: And it should be said today, that's so true, like, we threw in a bit of money for air marshals because the Americans were very big on that. They spent a small fortune on civilian police officers, to address the civilian on-border aircraft assigned on a random basis. So, we threw in a few of those but the truth be said, 18 years later, we didn't have that many, but we did that because the optics was very important.
Taki Sarantakis: Now, there were a lot of kind of political machinations happening at the time. If you remember, it was kind of the little bit of rumblings, you know, maybe the Prime Minister's been here too long. Maybe Paul Martin should be, maybe Brian Tobin should be, maybe John Manley should be, and to a lot of people's surprise, we had a sudden resignation. Brian Tobin suddenly resigned during this period as Minister of Industry, and after the budget, the Prime Minister named John Manley as kind of- he named him the Deputy Prime Minister but he also kind of- in newspaper articles, he was kind of being referred to as the Minister of everything.
So, he was directly appointed by the Prime Minister and explicitly said Minister Manley will lead Canada out of the post-9/11 era or into the consequences of post-9/11. Rob, tell us a little bit because you- did you formally become his deputy or were you de facto his deputy?
Rob Fonberg: Well, not as Deputy of Foreign Affairs but I was his point person, the Deputy of the Border Task Force and the Privy Council Office. So, I worked very closely with John through that period of time and all of his meetings with Tom Ridge, and I still have a whole bunch of napkins from the White House because every time we would go there, I thought, I'm never going to be back here, so I'm taking the napkins. I would have taken some artwork but it was all-
Margaret Bloodworth: It's hard to take it out.
Rob Fonberg: It was all kind of bolted down, and the one time we were in the West Wing and I kind of walked over to have a look at the Oval Office, I pretty near got shot because I guess I wasn't really supposed to go there. I think that- and I obviously have never been on the political side, but I do think that the politics of that time and the dynamics among the Prime Minister and Mr. Manley and various others, including Tobin and Mr. Martin, probably were to some extent behind some of that narrative and some of that rhetoric.
Taki Sarantakis: Yeah, and so you would follow, as official support, Minister Manley.
Rob Fonberg: And support PSAT.
Taki Sarantakis: Support what?
Rob Fonberg: The Cabinet Committee on Public Safety and Public Security and Anti-Terrorism, correct.
Taki Sarantakis: And how real was kind of the fear that the Americans are going to shut this down? Like, it's going to be really expensive to cross the border, it's going to take a long time to cross the border, we're going to start losing the auto plants, we're going to start losing, you know, food processing plants, anything that kind of is integrated across the border. Talk to us a little bit about maybe a little bit about what the business community was saying or telling you or what you were hearing.
Rob Fonberg: Well, you know, I think that, first of all, I think those concerns were real and I think the fears were real, and I think, again, the appointment of Ridge and Manley together really helped to soothe those concerns.
Taki Sarantakis: And they really got along personally, apparently.
Rob Fonberg: They got along extremely well personally, common cause, common objectives. They understood the security and prosperity piece. Ridge ran a lot of interference. There was no Department of Homeland Security at that time. He created the Office of Homeland Security inside the White House, had direct access to the President.
And in addition to the- it's not clear what causes what, but very strong personal relationship and Ridge ran a lot of interference on Manley's kind of behalf because in the same way that we had certain concerns here in Canada about where we're going with the Anti-Terrorism Act or with intelligence and information-sharing, they had a lot of concerns in Washington, and Ridge, who had kind of grown up on the border, was a huge beneficial interlocutor for us.
And I think that relationship- as opposed to had it just been kind of Manley on his own doing things here, that relationship, I think, gave comfort to the business community.
I remember being with Manley and speaking to the business community on my own about what we were doing. The fact that we had this declaration which subsequently, you know, Bush and Chrétien met over, I think gave further comfort to the community and we actually- you know, a lot of what we're living with today, that paradigm or the paradigm we have today, much of it came out of that time. So, there was a confidence that we were taking it seriously and moving forward.
Margaret Bloodworth: And I would say it's not just the business community.
Rob Fonberg: That's true.
Margaret Bloodworth: It was a real fear. I mean, as one who on the border stuff would have been one of the players on a small part because much of it was economic, there was real fear because the default position of the Americans was to kind of put walls up and that existed for years. I remember when I became National Security Advisor and meeting one of my counterparts down in the U.S. on the intelligence side, and this happened to be about cybersecurity at the time, and their first thinking was, well, we'll put kind of checks all around the border, a cyberworld.
Rob Fonberg: Yeah.
Margaret Bloodworth: I mean, that's kind of their default position and when I pointed out that actually, you know, our banking systems are interlinked and many of our other systems, and that might be kind of difficult to put a wall in there, and this was a bright, intelligent person who kind of stopped and said, oh, yeah, you're probably right, but their default position- they're a big, powerful country and their default position is to harden that border.
Rob Fonberg: Well, and the economic reality was, you know, it's not a very open economy compared to Canada. So, you look at where our exports are going and how exposed we are and where their exports go, it's much easier for them to argue.
Margaret Bloodworth: Absolutely.
Rob Fonberg: We just put up walls and we'll kind of manage.
Taki Sarantakis: Yeah.
Margaret Bloodworth: So, I think that Manley/Ridge process that Rob supported was important not just for that period of time. I think it set a tone that continued for a long time.
Taki Sarantakis: Yeah, and the border became a very different place after 9/11. For the younger people in the audience, and this might shock you for those of you that are younger and kind of don't remember a pre-9/11 border. When you were coming back from the United States, if you had forgotten your driver's license, you didn't need a passport. If you'd forgotten your driver's license, you could typically get back into Canada. They would ask you a couple of questions.
They would say, what's the phone number for Pizza Pizza. If you were coming back from Buffalo to Toronto, from Niagara Falls or Buffalo, and they would say, what's the phone number for Pizza Pizza, and if you would say 9-6-7-11-11, they would let you through. They literally would. Sometimes, they would ask you, who's the coach of the Toronto Maple Leafs, and if you could say it, they'd let you through.
Rob Fonberg: Who cares? They'd say who cares.
Taki Sarantakis: Getting on an airplane, a similar bit of a dynamic. Like, now, before we get on an airplane, if your name doesn't match your passport or your driver's license or your Nexus card on the ticket, you're not getting on that plane, yeah. Talk to us- there's another one, the no-fly list.
Louis Ranger: Again, you know, I think, obviously, the Americans might not have had their act together in the early days but they sure put it together later on, and they had a very sophisticated- well, a very elaborate process to establish a no-fly list which I understand was the merger of four databases, and if you went fishing without a fishing license, you could end up on that list. Like, it was very, very broad but there was enormous pressure on Canada to also have our own no-fly list, and I don't think it's appropriate to go into details but we had a very different process, but it did obviously play tricks on us because we were, you know, having a name that resembled.
Taki Sarantakis: And there were funny, not so funny if you were the people, but we had a cabinet minister, David Anderson, who somehow got on the American no-fly list because his name was David Anderson.
Louis Ranger: That's correct, and the Charter has much more, you know, restrictions in Canada than the U.S. had, you know. So, that was not an easy thing, and thank God it's no longer with Transport Canada but that was a quite a responsibility for the Deputy of Transport who was the last signature on that no-fly list with advice from CSIS, RCMP, Transport, but we were the last signatories on that. It was a big responsibility.
Taki Sarantakis: Now, a couple of you went on and continued or had national security careers after. Margaret, you mentioned you were the Prime Minister's National Security Advisor. Immediately after your time at Transport Canada, you became the Deputy Minister of the Department of National Defence, I think about a year after 9/11.
Margaret Bloodworth: In May 2002.
Taki Sarantakis: Yeah, a little bit after. Tell us a little about how 9/11 continues or continued during your time to inform some of our public policy actions in those realms. Like, in the little clip, we saw that within, I think it was less than a month, we had like something like 40,000 troops on the ground in Afghanistan.
Margaret Bloodworth: Oh, no, it wasn't that. We don't have 40,000 troops to deploy. It was I think-
Rob Fonberg: 40,000 in the NATO, there may have been.
Taki Sarantakis: In NATO, sorry.
Margaret Bloodworth: NATO, yeah.
Taki Sarantakis: 40,000 in NATO.
Margaret Bloodworth: Not from us, well, I think we announced that they didn't actually go for two or three months, because when I arrived in May, we still had a battle group, I think it was a battle group, I've forgotten the terminology now, because the Minister and I went to see them in Afghanistan in July 2002, not a time I advise visiting Afghanistan. It's 50 when you go there, that's above zero, and so, we still had a group that were actually getting mobilized to come home at that point but of course, Afghanistan continued for a long time.
There'll be lots of debates about that but it was triggered by- that's where Bin Laden and company were, in the mountains of- the Taliban had allowed him to be there. The Taliban actually had not masterminded the attack but they had allowed Bin Laden to be there and to plot what he was doing.
So, that was very much a factor in defence, and in December of '03 when Paul Martin became Prime Minister, he created the Department of Public Safety because I went as the first Deputy Minister there, which I actually, at the time, believe was the right thing to do and it brought a lot of the security apparatus under one minister but did not create a single department, which was also the right thing to do because homeland security in the U.S., it's probably still struggling but it certainly, all my career, struggled.
When you bring people into a department, a huge number of people, they struggled with just the apparatus whereas ours was more to put them under the single minister so they could get some policy direction, some coordination, but not try and re-organize everybody in government in the security side.
Taki Sarantakis: Rob?
Rob Fonberg: Well, Afghanistan for sure is the long tail of 9/11 but I think we kind of, you know, chased down Bin Laden in Pakistan ultimately and I think lost the thread in Afghanistan on 9/11 itself, you know. We prosecuted that war. It became about different things than just kind of 9/11 over time, and you know, obviously, to this day, I wouldn't say that Afghanistan was a kind of healthy, you know, well-functioning country.
Margaret Bloodworth: It's not Switzerland.
Rob Fonberg: It ain't Switzerland, that's for sure, but I think we learned a lot of things, and the kind of overriding kind of enabling thing in Afghanistan was NATO's Article 5 which is one country is attacked and everybody's attacked, and that was how we went to war ultimately in Afghanistan but I don't recall that we actually formally entered the war. Well, we certainly didn't take over Kandahar until about 2005 or something.
Margaret Bloodworth: Oh, yeah.
Rob Fonberg: So, we were kind of up in Kabul doing various things, including trying to- you know, our military was trying to help the government kind of at that time, but we lost a thread on the 9/11 piece. So, that was the origin. I think after some time, it was no longer about 9/11 really.
Taki Sarantakis: So, we had some kind of institutional machinery legacies that continue. The National Security Advisor, we didn't have that.
Margaret Bloodworth: That was created in 2003. It was in '03 as well.
Taki Sarantakis: We have Public Safety, which, as you've said, a little bit of the equivalent of Homeland Security but not quite, but at least kind of the RCMP and CSIS who probably historically haven't had a great record of all kind of talking to each other at the same time. They're at least under one minister and they have a portfolio deputy. Any other kind of legacies of 9/11 that really stick out for you as senior civil servants from the era?
Rob Fonberg: Facilitating sort of border movement, facilitating things. I think Nexus was kind of fully sort of established fast, it became a really important kind of program, the Gordie Howe Bridge.
Am I making noise? I don't really- I rarely wear a tie.
The Gordie Howe Bridge, that was kind of a big piece because anybody who had been down to the Ambassador Bridge at that time, it looked like something from the Canadian National Exhibition. It looked like a roller coaster or something, right, same kind of era, not very secure, so a lot of those infrastructure, kind of thing.
So, again, what we're living with today around the border, around the security intelligence information sharing piece- we were talking about the no-fly list. Well, API, our advanced passenger information, passenger number records, that all came out of 9/11, exit/entry in the U.S., not just who was coming in but when were they leaving.
So, we're living in a very different world now and although it may be invisible and we may have forgotten its origins, all of that paradigm comes out of 9/11 and our response.
Margaret Bloodworth: I would say on the structural level of the public service, there was huge- when we talk about situation centres, but it was more than that. The training, business continuity plans, the training of response to emergency was all ramped up post-9/11. I fear it- I saw it even before I left, the urgency for example, to have exercises which actually are important. The people on the front line do that but getting senior people involved in that.
My guess is that's tapered right off and it'll take another crisis for that to happen again, but it does matter. I talked about Transport mobilizing. It matters what kind of infrastructure you have to start with and the training you have, and some redundancy because as I say, the ADM safety and security was in China, you know. You need some other people who can do things, not just the person, the one person, that does that.
Well, all of those things, I think, improved at least in in the immediate post-9-11, and for several years after. They're hard to sustain unless you have another crisis.
Louis Ranger: Okay, what we forgot to say is how lucky we were on 9/11 because there's this impression that the Americans call Margaret and say, do you mind if we, you know, land all our aircraft in Canada and they're maybe full of terrorists and bombs. Like, it just happened.
They closed their airspace and we, not knowing really the level of risk, we took that risk and we were very lucky that there was no further incidents in Canada, but over the years after 9/11, we became convinced that if there was another 9/11, we would be judged much more severely but we were also convinced that we would do much better.
The problem is that the next 9/11 may not be in the aviation world as much as they seem to love it. There is an endless list of knowns, known unknowns, where those incidents will occur, and you know, you know those much better than I do. I mean, you know, religious, sports, political gatherings, the way our water is distributed in our cities, cybersecurity worldwide, we haven't seen that yet. Are we ready for that? I don't know. Maybe my colleagues do have that answer.
And the other takeaway, I guess, is how do you prepare for the so-called unknown unknowns, and what I said earlier is that those events do bring the best out of people 99% of the time, and maybe whatever we do to strengthen, in our programs, social cohesion, a sense of belonging, finding literature and so on can only contribute to preparing this kind of resilience that we need to face the unknown unknown which, touch wood, may not happen for the next 100 years or it may happen tomorrow morning.
For the unknown unknowns, we can only count on people's resilience, and I think over time, it has saved many other nations and would save Canada.
Taki Sarantakis: As we start to wrap up, I'd like to ask each of you kind of your reflections on crisis and dealing with crisis and living through crisis.
Rob, I'll start with you. What do you think you learned the most from this and kind of what advice would you have to people in this room and people watching on tape in the years to come in terms of how do you prepare for crisis and what do you do when you're in the crisis?
Rob Fonberg: Yeah, that's a great question and I've thought a lot about it over these last few days, especially in advance of coming here, Taki, and I guess there are a number of things.
First of all, relationships are important, leadership is important, commitment is important, and how you kind of sustain initiatives, but it comes back to what Margaret and Louis were talking about, not micromanaging people, but the public service- you hope that public servants throughout the kind of hierarchy are infused and imbued with a sense of how to act when there's no rules set and there's nobody turn to, to say, how do I act, I've got 15 minutes to kind of make a decision here, what do I do, and you want people to be making the right kinds of risk-informed decisions in those situations.
They're not always going to be right but you want them to have the confidence and the experiences that give them the confidence to make those kinds of decisions, and you know, the reality is, in a real crisis, it's a classic cliché about better to ask for forgiveness after the fact than to go and seek approval, and you know, the event may turn into an even worse crisis.
So, for me, it's very much about those public service values and not just kind of at the most senior levels but throughout the public service.
Taki Sarantakis: Louis?
Louis Ranger: I guess what we haven't had a chance to talk about this but being associate to Margaret, Margaret is an incredible delegator. So, throughout that crisis, I mean, she had a lot on her plate but it's quite amazing how much how much delegation she gave and how much she trusted me through that experience.
In fact, when I look back, I became deputy eight months after 9/11 and basically was in charge of implementing all those programs but I would have never had that opportunity if Margaret hadn't trusted me to set up all the programs that we set up.
So, just to reinforce, not micromanaging and also delegating and trusting people.
Taki Sarantakis: It sounds like she's still doing your performance appraisal here.
Louis Ranger: That's the least I can say about Margaret.
Margaret Bloodworth: Well, I guess something I knew before 9/11 but it really reinforced me, in the end, the biggest resource we have is people and I would say this particularly to all of you who are managers. You need to think always and act in that accordance, that the biggest resource you have is people.
So, how do you make sure they can do the best possible? And yes, that's delegating but you have to monitor because not everybody lives up to what they've been asked for, training, giving them confidence by doing things, and smoothing the way in crisis, because if there's one thing I'm sure of, we will not know what the biggest crisis is next.
If somebody had suggested the week before 9/11, you know, we should have a contingency plan- and Transport Canada had lots of contingency plans, we should have a contingency plan for landing all the planes in North America, there would have been dead silence in room and people wouldn't have laughed because their polite but they would have said, well, that's not very likely, let's move on, and by definition, that type of thing is something that is unthinkable.
Now, we've done a little more thinking about the unthinkable, like pandemics and so on since then, but you can be sure you'll never think of them all, and so you want people that are able to act, able to come back to you when they need to, and particularly, for those of us who manage people, thinking about how you create the environment that will happen and empower people but also ensure they're trained for that is, I think, the biggest responsibility of managers.
Taki Sarantakis: Absolutely.
A couple of last thoughts.
So, there is a school of thought that says exactly what you just said, Margaret, which is you can't anticipate everything and you certainly can't anticipate specifics but you should really stop thinking about risk and you should start thinking about resiliency, which is how quickly can we do things? How quickly can we land airplanes? How quickly can we get up and running after an attack on this or an electrical outage or all IT is out? So, instead of kind of being paralyzed by specific risks, start thinking about the resiliency of your organization.
A new book that's coming out in the fall is written by somebody who you guys both know, Major General David Fraser, who ran Operation MEDUSA in Afghanistan, and he's co-written a book with Tom Jenkins where they talk about kind of the military lessons and the boardroom lessons kind of coming together and converging, and they actually say you can't react anymore.
We used to live in a world where you could react but events are happening so quickly now that if you're in a position where you have to react, you've already lost. Instead of reacting, you have to anticipate. You have to proactively start thinking of bad scenarios, worst case scenarios, what's climate change going to do to me, what's this going to do to me, what's this third thing going to do to my organization, because if you only start thinking about those things on the morning of 9/11, you're in a lot of trouble.
And like you said, Margaret, Transport was prepared to do its part, its very big part, on that day because it was prepared, because it had a team, because it didn't know that airplanes were going to hit buildings in New York but it did know that something bad might happen one day and we have a responsibility to be ready for that.
Rob Fonberg: One thing about that, Taki, is I agree with that completely but the question of how do you take out as much uncertainty as possible, I think, is an important one, and I have a huge regard for the military who does lessons learned extremely well after tactical incidents, after strategic incidents, after wars, after battles. I'm not sure, maybe I'm just not informed, but I'm not sure that the public service does lessons learned nearly as deliberately or as effectively, which means every time it happens, we're reinventing history.
And the thing that really struck me was post-Afghanistan, all of the effort that went into the whole of government effort and all of the challenges, and I kept on saying to my people and others around the table at PCO, where is the book, what did we learn out of this whole of government effort, or are we going to have to reinvent the whole thing the next time, because it is painful to invent it the first time.
So, I agree with you, maybe we need to move on to resiliency, but there are certain underpinnings to resiliency, like understanding what happened as best as you possibly can so that there's not as much confusion and uncertainty the next time.
Margaret Bloodworth: I would agree with that. I think it's not either or. You have to try and take some uncertainty out of it but don't be under an illusion that you can take it all out, and I am a big believer in lessons learned and Rob's absolute right, the military do it much better than we civilians do. We did do a lessons learned with Transport Canada post-9/11.
One lesson I learned is people find all the mistakes, because the first version I read, I remember chairing a meeting and saying, well, you know, I actually thought we did pretty well those few days, oh, yeah, we did. I said, well, if I read this, it's all about everything we should have done better. I said you got to include the things we did that actually worked well too, but that's something I think that we need to learn on the civilian side.
Louis Ranger: This week marks my 10th year that I've left government. I spent a lot of time with the private sector and there is this perception of private sector that nothing gets done in government, and I always invoke the stories about how fast decisions were made, that when there's a will, there's a way.
And I haven't had a chance to tell the story about war risk insurance where within 48 hours, you implement this without a clear legal authority and deciding the risk level, no, no, we invoked the royal prerogative, and the risk was so high that we declared it was unquantifiable, and Treasury Board Secretariat bought that and within 48 hours, we had a signature and we're able to calm down the whole country that was up in arms.
So, the decision was made so quickly and, you know, there is that capacity. There is that capacity.
Taki Sarantakis: So, I have good news and I have bad news.
So, the bad news is we're out of time. So, I want to- on behalf of the people in the room and on behalf of the people who will be watching this for, I think, years to come, thank you, Rob, thank you, Louis, and thank you, Margaret, for the anecdotes, the lessons, and the wisdom that you've passed on to us.
So, that's the bad news. The good news is there is a reception right after. There is food, there is, I think, a cash bar, and you can continue chatting with our panelists over maybe a glass of wine and a little bit of food.
Thank you once again. It's been a privilege.
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