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.
Today, I am writing about Canada’s esteemed Minister of National Defence Harjit Sajjan, whom I had the privilege of photographing in 2011 while on assignment with the officers for BC Regiment. Where Harjit Sajjan was due to become the next Commanding Officer following his return from Afghanistan.
“When did you return from Afghanistan, sir?” I asked as we were preparing to photograph the then-titled Lieutenant Colonel Harjit Sajjan (I had been briefed earlier that week that he was in Afghanistan). “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 he would come straight to see me for his session, instead of visiting his family, friends or even going for a walk after dealing with all he experienced during his last tour. I already knew that the Lieutenant Colonel was one of Canada’s most talented officers, and assumed he didn’t want to inconvenience anyone else’s schedule because that is the kind of leader he is.
Our Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau chose Harjit Sajjan as our Defence Minister. His position will be legendary, not only for the pride of Canadians but through his leadership, passion and compassion as Canada transitions from being a follower to a leader of international peace.
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 BC Regiment in 1989 as a trooper and was commissioned in 1991 where he rose to Lieutenant Colonel. He was deployed overseas four times in the course of his career: once to Bosnia and Herzegovina where he was wounded, then later deployed to Afghanistan three times.
“The best single Canadian intelligence asset in theatre,” his work saved “a multitude of coalition lives…” were the remarks of 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 once said in a conference. “We don’t want to spend a lot of timing talking buzz words, we want to demonstrate with action.” While Canada is preparing to help the world through our Minister of Defence’s strategic plans, this is what he had to say about our new role in the world: “Even using the terminology of peacekeeping is not valid at this time. Those realities do not exist now and we need to understand the reality of today.”
Sajjan was also a detective for the Vancouver Police Department with the department’s gang crimes unit specialising in drug trafficking and organized crime investigation. His esteemed career in Vancouver lasted 11 years.
I remember being 20 years old and reading an article about how the RCMP would allow Sikhs to wear a turban and later discussing it with my friends, who like me, at that age lacked wisdom so we joked about it in 1990. Little would I have known then that photographing a war hero, a talented detective our Minister of National Defence Harjit Sajjan and also a Sikh who wears a turban. Would be a highlight and pride of my career. I just didn’t know any better.
“I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin, but by the content of their character.” – Martin Luther King. Martin Luther’s dream is here with Harjit Sajjan.
“What did you learn from Afghanistan?”, I asked. “People in Afghanistan want what we all want, opportunity, safety and a brighter future” said the Lieutenant Colonel Harjit Sajjan.