OTTAWA (APP) – Sporting a turban and a thick beard, decorated soldier Harjit Sajjan stood out in the Canadian military, but as defense minister he is among several Sikhs appointed to key positions in Justin Trudeau’s administration.
The veteran of wars in Bosnia and Afghanistan was appointed to the senior ministerial post on Wednesday, when Trudeau and his cabinet were sworn in, following the Liberals’ October 19 election victory.
At age 45, he takes on one of the toughest jobs of the new administration. He will be responsible for winding down Canada’s combat mission against the Islamic State group in Iraq and Syria, withdrawing from the US-led F-35 fighter jet program and quashing sexual misconduct in the military.
He will also sit on the new government’s most powerful cabinet committees, including public safety and espionage.
Born in Punjab, India in 1970, Sajjan moved to Canada with his family at age five, settling in the Pacific coast city of Vancouver.
He worked 11 years as a police officer, including a stint as a detective with the gang crimes unit, before joining the Canadian military and rising to the rank of lieutenant-colonel.
Ironically, he was reportedly rejected by the first unit where he applied 26 years ago, but stuck it out.