Harjit Sajjan

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In brief

The Times of India, November 5, 2015

India-born first-time Sikh MP Harjit Sajjan, who is the new defence minister, is a decorated police and army official. Sajjan has been the first Sikh to command a Canadian regiment, called the Duke of Connaught's Own, which is a reserve regiment based in British Columbia province. Sajjan is a combat veteran and has served in Bosnia and had three deployments to Kandahar, Afghanistan. He was given the Meritorious Service Medal in March 2013. As the new defence minister, Sajjan will work with Trudeau on reshaping Canada's combat mission fighting the IS in Iraq and Syria. A father of two, Sajjan was with the Vancouver Police Department for 11 years and served as a detective for the gang crime unit. However, Sajjan's nomination as the Liberal Party candidate from Vancouver South last year attracted controversy when many Sikh leaders resigned from the party , alleging that the leadership has been `manipulated' by hardliner Sikhs of the World Sikh Organization (WSO). Sajjan's father Kundan Sajjan is a board member of the WSO.

Biographical details

The Times of India, Nov 06 2015

Ikhhlaq Aujla

Man who went behind enemy lines

War Veteran Sajjan is perhaps the third Sikh ever to be Defence Minister

When Harjit Singh Sajjan was appointed Canada's defence minister on Wednesday , he became first ever baptised Sikh outside India to get the coveted ministry. Despite the community distinguishing itself in bloody wars time and again, India has had only two Sikh defence ministers since Independence -Baldev Singh (1947-52) and Swaran Singh (1966-70 and 1974-75).

A decorated soldier of the Canadian army with a reputation of having effectively fought the Taliban in Afghan istan, Sajjan, 42, is part of the 30-member Canadian cabinet of the Liberal Party led by Prime Minister Justin Trudeau. “I have served in the Canadian Armed Forces for over 23 years and look forward to continue to serve our great country , Canada,“ Sajjan wrote on his Facebook page.

His appointment was greeted across the political spectrum. “Although I didn't vote Liberal, the new PM made an excellent choice appointing Sajjan to Minister of National Defense,“ Canadian national and war veteran Ken Sandall said. Outgoing minister Tim Uppal of the Conservative party tweeted, “Partisan politics aside its good to see friends @NavdeepSBains and @HarjitSajjan in the new cabinet.“

India-born Sajjan hails from Bambeli village in Punjab's Hoshiarpur district. His parents had moved to Canada when he was five. A lieutenant colonel in the Canadian army , Sajjan was deployed in strife-torn areas four times, including in Bosnia and thrice in Afghanistan's Kandahar. He got numerous recognitions for his service, including the Meritorious Service Medal for reducing the Taliban's influence in Kandahar. He is also a recipient of the Order of Military Merit -one of the highest military honours in Canada. “His approach, based on his knowledge of local culture and tribal dynamics, helped the management to engage with influential Afghan tribal leaders, and led to the identification of insurgent command and control connection points,“ says the citation on the Canadian governor general's website.

Before joining the Army , Sajjan was an officer with the Vancouver police for 11 years.

Never thought he would get defence

Ever since the build-up to the Canada elections picked up pace last month, there was also a lot of buzz in Harjit Sajjan's village in Hoshiarpur. His cousin Bachittar Singh said banners were put up after Sajjan got elected to the parliament.“While it was expected that he would be made a minister, we never thought he would get the defence portfolio,“ he said.“Though Harjit has visited us a few times, he couldn't spare time after he joined the Canadian army,“ he said.

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