Harjit Singh Sajjan PC OMM MSM CD MP (born September 6, 1970) is a Canadian Liberal politician, the current Minister of National Defence and a Member of Parliament representing the riding of Vancouver South. He is the first Sikh to become Minister of Defence. Sajjan was first elected during the 2015 federal election, defeating Conservative incumbent MP Wai Young, and was sworn as defence minister into the Cabinet, headed by Justin Trudeau, on November 4, 2015. Before politics, Sajjan was a detective investigating gangs for the Vancouver Police Department and a regimental commander in the Canadian Armed Forces decorated for his service in Afghanistan. Sajjan was also the first Sikh-Canadian to command a Canadian army reserve regiment.
PC OMM MSM CD MP
|Minister of National Defence|
November 4, 2015
|Prime Minister||Justin Trudeau|
|Preceded by||Jason Kenney|
|Member of the Canadian Parliament
for Vancouver South
October 19, 2015
|Preceded by||Wai Young|
|Born||September 6, 1970
Hoshiarpur, Punjab, India
|Spouse(s)||Kuljit Kaur, MD|
|Years of service||1989–2015|
Early and personal life
Harjit Singh Sajjan was born on September 6, 1970 in Bombeli, a village in the Hoshiarpur district of Punjab, India. Sajjan’s father, Kundan Sajjan, was a police officer in India, and is currently a member of the World Sikh Organization (WSO), a Sikh advocacy group. Harjit Singh, along with his mother and older sister, emigrated to Canada in 1976, when he was five years old, to join their father who had left for British Columbia two years earlier to work at a sawmill. While the family was getting established in their new life in Canada, his mother worked on berry farms in BC Lower Mainland during the summer where Harjit Singh and his sister would frequently join her. Harjit Singh grew up in a neighborhood in South Vancouver.
Harjit Singh married Kuljit Kaur, a family physician, in 1996, and they have a son and a daughter.
Sajjan was baptized as a Sikh when he was a teenager, seeing it as a way to get away from a bad crowd, such as his classmate Bindy Johal.
Military and police career
Sajjan joined the The British Columbia Regiment (Duke of Connaught’s Own) in 1989 as a trooper and was commissioned in 1991. He eventually rose to the rank of lieutenant-colonel. He was deployed overseas four times in the course of his career: once to Bosnia and Herzegovina, and three times to Afghanistan. Sajjan was wounded during his service in Bosnia. Sajjan began his 11-year career as an officer of the Vancouver Police Department after returning from his Bosnian deployment. He ended his career with the VPD as a detective with the department’s gang crimes unit specializing in drug trafficking and organized-crime investigator.
Sajjan’s first deployment to Afghanistan was right before Operation Medusa in 2006, during which he took leave from his work in the Vancouver Police Department’s gang squad. He deployed with the 1st Battalion, Royal Canadian Regiment Battle Group in Kandahar and worked as a liaison officer with the Afghan police. His fluency in Punjabi, his first language, allowed him to be understood by Urdu-speaking Afghans without translators, especially by village leaders who were invaluable to his intelligence gathering. Sajjan found that corruption in the Afghan government was driving recruitment to the Taliban and managed to uncover most Taliban defensive positions in the Kandahar region. After reporting these findings to Brigadier General David Fraser, Sajjan was tasked with helping the general plan aspects of Operation Medusa.
During Operation Medusa, four Canadian soldiers under Sajjan’s command were killed in the fighting. Fraser evaluated Sajjan’s leadership during the operation as “nothing short of brilliant.” When Sajjan returned to Vancouver, Fraser sent a letter to the police department calling Sajjan “the best single Canadian intelligence asset in theatre,” and stated that his work saved “a multitude of coalition lives.”
Upon his return, Sajjan left his position with the Vancouver Police, but stayed as a reservist and started his own consulting business that taught intelligence gathering techniques to Canadian and American military personnel. He also consulted for US policy analyst and Afghanistan expert Barnett Rubin, which began as a correspondence over Sajjan’s views on how to tackle the Afghan opium trade and evolved into a collaboration as advisers to American military and diplomatic leaders in Afghanistan.
Sajjan returned to Afghanistan for another tour of duty in 2009, taking another tour of leave from the VPD to do so. Having already taken two leaves of absence, Sajjan had to leave the VPD for his third tour of duty in 2010, during which he was assigned as a Special Assistant to then Major-General James L. Terry, the commander of American forces in Afghanistan.
In 2011, he became the first Sikh to command a Canadian Army reserve regiment when he was named commander of the The British Columbia Regiment (Duke of Connaught’s Own).
He was bestowed with the Meritorious Service Medal in 2012 for diluting the Taliban’s influence in Kandahar Province. He has also been awarded the Canadian Peacekeeping Service Medal.He also received the Order of Military Merit award. He also served as an Aide-de-Camp to the Lieutenant Governor of British Columbia.
His Sikh beliefs requires him to keep his facial hair which prevents the use of regular military gas masks, so Sajjan invented his own gas mask that worked with his beard, and patented it in 1996.
Sajjan was elected for the riding of Vancouver South during the 2015 federal election, defeating Conservative incumbent MP Wai Young.Sajjan was appointed Minister of National Defence in the federal Cabinet, headed by Justin Trudeau, on November 4, 2015.
Honours and decorations
Sajjan received the following honours and decorations during and after his military career.
|Order of Military Merit (OMM)||
|Meritorious Service Medal (MSM)||
|South-West Asia Service Medal||
|General Campaign Star||
|Mentioned in dispatches||
|NATO Service Medal||
|Canadian Peacekeeping Service Medal|
|Queen Elizabeth II Golden Jubilee Medal||
|Queen Elizabeth II Diamond Jubilee Medal||
|Canadian Forces Decoration (CD)||
|Chief of Defence Staff Commendation|
|Deputy Minister Award||
|[hide]Canadian federal election, 2015: Vancouver South|
|New Democratic||Amandeep Nijjar||6,230||13.97||-7.10||–|
|Progressive Canadian||Raj Gupta||166||0.37||–||–|
|Total valid votes/Expense limit||44,611||100.0||$202,339.96|
|Total rejected ballots||259||–||–|
|Liberal gain from Conservative||Swing||+11.8%|
|Source: Elections Canada|