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.
Sajjan was born in India and moved to Canada with his family when he was five years old.His father worked in a mill and his mother picked berries with an eye to supporting their children through school.
A decorated police and army official, Harjit Singh 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 has served in Afghanistan and Bosnia and been twice a special adviser on Afghanistan. He was given the Meritorious Service Medal in March 2013.
A father of two, the 45-year-old Sajjan was with the Vancouver Police Department for 11 years and served as a detective for the gang crime unit. He served as a reservist, and was deployed with the Canadian peacekeeping forces to Bosnia in 1996.
In 2006 he served in Afghanistan, playing a key intelligence advisory role to Brig.-Gen David Fraser in the successful Operation Medusa offensive against the Taliban. He returned to Afghanistan in 2009 and 2011.
Rising to the rank of reserve lieutenant-colonel, he was named commander of the B.C. Regiment (Duke of Connaught’s Own), in 2012. Sajjan joined the Vancouver Police Department in 1999. As a detective, he worked in Vancouver’s gang squad to help pull kids off the path to a gangster’s life.
He previously said a small team of Canadian soldiers built rapport with locals that yielded crucial intelligence on the Taliban defences. 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.