(Editor’s note: Liberal MP Bill Graham served as foreign minister in the tumultuous aftermath of 9/11. The era saw unprecedented peacetime restrictions on freedom of movement. Graham recounted those years in a May 11, 2011 interview with Blacklock’s publisher Holly Doan. Following is a transcription of his remarks)
In a free and open democratic society if you take steps that are too Draconian then in fact you’ve let the terrorists win. If you’d told me that when I go to the airport I would have to take off my shoes and walk through a machine I wouldn’t have believed it. I wouldn’t believe airport security could be like it is today.
You could make an argument that we overreacted. Ultimately the most important responsibility that a government has to its people and its citizens is their security.
It’s all very well to sit back now and say nothing happened, so did we overreact? But what would you be saying to me if there had been a terrorist attack in Canada and we hadn’t acted? Then what would your questions be to me? What was my responsibility as a legislator to the Canadian public? That is what was in people’s minds as we sat there having to deal with these issues.
I can remember towns where you could walk across the border, go from a garage across the border where they shared services. I grew up in British Columbia and we’d go back and forth to Seattle. It was a daily occurrence, no problem. The border today is actually a fortified border.
The cloud is still moving over us as a result of what happened. The border is still thickening. The American security is getting worse. It’s not getting better. The effect on Canada and Canadians has been far more than people appreciate.
It went against the grain of a lot of things that we like to think of as Canadian. In previous years Canada probably would’ve opened its doors to many people. We don’t open our doors anymore because everybody has to have a security check.
That whole security concept, the way in which all governments are operating today as a result of 9/11, is imperceptibly changing the way we do business. Ultimately it will affect the way we see ourselves.