Canada’s Minister of National Defence
Being a professional photographer dedicated to capturing headshots becomes an opportunity to capture the essence of people, agencies and their unfolding dreams – allowing me the privilege to witness greatness. Over the next few months I am writing about agencies and people shaping our society by either offering unique services, products or a great life. Today I am writing about our esteemed Minister of National Defence Harjit Sajjan whom I had the privilege to photograph in 2011 while photographing the officers of The British Columbia Regiment.
“When did you returned from Afghanistan, Sir?” I asked as we were preparing to photograph the then Lieutenant Colonel Harjit Sajjan. “Just returned this morning from my tour and came straight to see you for our headshot session”, explained the Lieutenant Colonel. I didn’t need to ask him why would he come straight to see me for his session, instead of visiting his family, friends or going for a walk after dealing with everything he experienced during his last tour. I was already educated about the Lieutenant Colonel as being one of Canada’s most talented Officers and assumed that he didn’t want to inconvenience anyone else’s schedule, because that is the kind of leader he is.
Our Prime Minister, Justin Trudeau, chose Harjit Sajjan as our Minister of National Defence. Harjit Sajjan will be Canada’s first Sikh minister of national defence. His position will be legendary through his leadership, passion, and compassion as Canada transitions to being a leader of International Peace. We have a war hero, a police detective – the real thing in Harjit Sajjan.
Harjit Sajjan’s Biography & qualifications
Harjit Sajjan was born in a little village called Bombelli in the Hoshiarpur district of Punjab, India. Sajjan’s father was a police officer in India and a World Sikh Organization member, they immigrated to Canada in 1976 when Harjit was 5 years old. Sajjan joined the British Columbia Regiment (Duke of Connaught’s Own) in 1989 as a trooper and was commissioned in 1991 where he rose to Lieutenant Colonel.
Harjit Sajjan was deployed overseas four times in the course of his career: once to Bosnia and Herzegovina where he was wounded, and deployed three times to Afghanistan. “The best single Canadian intelligence asset in theatre”, Sajjan’s work saved “a multitude of coalition lives.” remarked Brigadier General David Fraser following his investigation of Operation Medusa where four soldiers were killed under Sajjan’s command.
“When we said we were going to be a responsible partner in the world, we meant it,” Sajjan said in a conference. “We don’t want to spend a lot of timing talking buzz words, we want to demonstrate with action.” While Sajjan plans how Canada will help the world he explains Canada’s new role in the world. “Even using the terminology of peacekeeping is not valid at this time,” he said. “Those peacekeeping days, those realities, do not exist now and we need to understand the reality of today”. His options included UN peacekeeping missions in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Mali, and the Central African Republic – all African countries.
Following his Bosnia deployment, Sajjan became a detective for the Vancouver Police Department with the department’s gang crimes unit and specialized in drug trafficking and organized crime investigations. His esteemed career in Vancouver lasted 11 years.
I remember being 20 years old and reading an article about the RCMP allowing Sikhs to wear a turban. What seemed like a trivial announcement at the time ended up having a large impact on minorities across Canada. It took me a while to understand that this small policy change had larger implications. Little did I know back then that without that policy change, I may never have gotten the opportunity to photograph Harjit Sajjan. That became one of the proudest moments in my career to photograph the war hero, talented detective, and eventual Minister of National Defence who continues to push for positive changes for Canadians and International Society.
Since writing this article, Sajjan ended his term as Minister of National Defence, and has gone on to become Minister of International Development and Minister responsible for the Pacific Economic Development Agency of Canada.
Sworn into office
Watch as Harjit Sajjan gets sworn in as Minister of National Defence, becoming Canada’s first Sikh Minister.