Big changes are underway in Ottawa since the Liberals’ big election win. One of these is the appointment of Lieutenant Colonel Harjit Sajjan, a former anti-gang police detective, highly decorated soldier, military intelligence genius, and Canada’s newest Minister of Defense.
Sajjan moved to Canada from India when he was just five years old. Joining the military at 18 after being initially rejected, he served one tour in Bosnia, three tours in Afghanistan, and was the first Sikh to command a Canadian Army regiment. In other words, this is one bad-ass, been-there-done-that Cabinet officer.
During his time time in Afghanistan, he gained a bit of a reputation as being almost a super-weapon when it came to fighting Taliban influence. As CBCNews tells it:
“He was the best single Canadian intelligence asset in theatre, and his hard work, personal bravery, and dogged determination undoubtedly saved a multitude of Coalition lives,” said Brig.-Gen. David Fraser in a letter to the VPD.
“Through his courage and dedication, [then] Major Sajjan has singlehandedly changed the face of intelligence gathering and analysis in Afghanistan.”
Because he spent 11 years working the anti-gang beat in Vancouver, commanders saw him as a perfect fit for combating the Taliban in Afghanistan. Sajjan received the Meritorious Service Medal in 2013 for effectively battling the Taliban’s influence in Kandahar Province. According to CBCnews, his citation states:
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.
Oh, and he’s also pretty much the buffest civilian head of a military you’ve ever seen:
Now the decorated soldier and crime buster will sit as one of newly minted Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s closest advisors and will have to immediately navigate Trudeau’s wish to withdraw Canada’s CF-18 Hornets from the anti-ISIS air coalition, and how to deal with the ISIS in Iraq in Canada’s own way, including how and who Canada will train in Iraq. He’ll also have to deal with the complex and ever-mutating threat that ISIS poses against the Canadian homeland. Yet according to Sajjan’s credentials and accomplishments, could there be anyone better to do this? Probably not.
Also on the new Minister’s docket will be the politically perilous task of finding Canada a fighter to replace its CF-18 Hornets, as well as finding a way to remodel Canada’s military on a very tight budget. Which is a war full of its own political and administrative battles.