Canada’s new Defence Minister is Harjit Sajjan, a decorated Lt.-Colonel in the Canadian Armed Forces and the newly-elected MP for Vancouver South.
Sajjan grew up in his riding, and later walked the South Vancouver streets as a detective with the Vancouver Police Department’s Gang Crime Unit. He is a combat veteran, serving in Bosnia and on three deployments to Kandahar, Afghanistan.
Sajjan, a turbaned Sikh, was born in Punjab and moved to the Vancouver area when he was five. He lives in British Columbia with his wife, Dr. Kuljit Kaur Sajjan, a family doctor trained at the University of British Columbia, and their two children.
Sajjan began his service in the army in 1989. He was deployed overseas four times, having served in Bosnia and Herzegovina as well as three separate stints in Afghanistan. For two of his Afghanistan deployments, Sajjan served as a special adviser.
In 2011, he became the first Sikh to command a Canadian army regiment, a British Columbia-based regiment called the Duke of Connaught’s Own. For his service, Sajjan has been awarded with 13 accommodations, including the Meritorious Service medal and Order of Military Merit.
“He was the best single Canadian intelligence asset in theater, and his hard work, personal bravery, and dogged determination undoubtedly saved a multitude of coalition lives. Through his courage and dedication, (then) Maj. Sajjan has singlehandedly changed the face of intelligence gathering and analysis in Afghanistan,” said Brigadier-General David Fraser in a letter to then Chief Constable Jamie Graham of the Vancouver Police Department.
In addition to serving his country, the Indian Canadian also served 11 years with the Vancouver police. During his police tenure, he was a detective in the gang crime unit. He was also an advocate for education and mentorship programs to engage youth to become more active members of society.
Outside of his army and police background, Sajjan, who was born in a rural village within Punjab, and his wife have four sponsored children and support many charities that promote health and education to impoverished children. Becoming the defense minister is the latest of his achievements, one which he isn’t taking lightly.
Sajjan has received numerous military honours, including the Meritorious Service Medal in 2013, for reducing the Taliban’s influence in Kandahar Province.
“His approach, based on his knowledge of local culture and tribal dynamics, helped senior management to engage with influential Afghan tribal leaders, and led to the identification of insurgent command and control connection points,” according to the citation on the Governor General’s website. “It’s an honor to serve in cabinet as Minister of National Defense. I will work hard to serve Canada,” he said in a Twitter post Nov. 4.