Punjab-origin Canadian defence minister Harjit Sajjan, 46, is courting controversy even before he sets foot on Indian soil on April 17 with Punjab chief minister Capt Amarinder Singh dubbing him a “Khalistani sympathiser” and refusing to meet him. Here is a brief profile of the man and the key milestones in his journey to becoming a minister in the Justin Trudeau cabinet.
Sajjan of Canada’s Liberal Party was sworn in minister of national defence in the federal cabinet of Justin Trudeau in 2015. He represents the riding of Vancouver South. He defeated Conservative incumbent MP Wai Young.
A large contingent of Sikh liberals in British Columbia quit in 2014 in the run-up to the elections, saying Trudeau was being “manipulated” by Sikhs under the banner of the World Sikh Organisation (WSO) when the Liberals selected him as a star candidate over former Liberal MP Barj Dhahan.
Though Sajjan denied he was a member of the WSO, his father Kundan Singh was a WSO board member and led fundamentalist Sikhs in a losing battle with moderates over the control of the Ross Street Temple in South Vancouver.
Dhahan was a moderate ally of Ujjal Dosanjh, the previous Liberal MP.
A retired lieutenant colonel in the Canadian Armed Forces, Sajjan is a combat veteran who served in Bosnia-Herzegovina and was deployed to Kandahar in Afghanistan three times. He received several military honours, including the Meritorious Service Medal in 2013, for reducing the Taliban’s influence in Kandahar. He also served as an aide-de-camp (ADC) to the lieutenant governor of British Columbia.
Sajjan was a police officer with the Vancouver Police Department for 11 years. He completed his last assignment as a detective-constable with the gang crime unit specialising in organised crime. Harjit is also a human security specialist and has lectured to a wide audience in both Canada and the United States.
Sajjan studied at Charles Tupper Secondary School in central Vancouver and his classmates included Bindi Johal, who went on to become a dreaded gangster.
Sajjan was born at Bombeli village in Hoshiarpur district of Punjab. He emigrated to Canada in 1976 when he was five. He was raised in Vancouver South.