Call this a ‘defense of the Minister of Defence’.
Harjit Sajjan was one of Justin Trudeau’s more interesting choices when he put together his first cabinet 18 months ago. He had been a decorated Lieutenant Colonel in the Canadian Forces with lively tours of duty in Bosnia and Afghanistan, as well as service as a police detective in Vancouver.
After Donald Trump moved into the White House earlier this year, Defence Minister Sajjan was greeted as a battlefield comrade-in-arms by his American counterpart, Secretary of Defense, General James Mattis. He went out of his way to praise the war record of the Canadian minister, but the past couple of weeks have not been easy for Harjit Sajjan.
He may indeed have stretched the truth more than a little about his role in a battle in Afghanistan called Operation Medusa in 2006. His problem was the use of the word ‘architect’ which the dictionary defines as “someone who plans, designs and reviews the construction of buildings”. Somehow it doesn’t seem appropriate when describing a firefight between the ‘good guys’ and the Taliban, but the minister put that description out there more than once.
He spent three days apologizing in the Commons where the Conservatives and the NDP are only too eager to keep chewing on a bone that has precious little meat on it. Justin Trudeau had stood by his minister, and the Chief of Defence Staff, General Jonathan Vance, could have jumped in to help, but chose not to, for reasons we may never know.
Canada has long punched way above our weight when it comes to the military, and that’s something of a miracle, given how the bean counters have usually had more sway in determining our defence policy than the Generals and Admirals.
Minister Sajjan has hopefully learned a hard lesson, and will be allowed to do better. If he doesn’t, Trudeau has a ready-made replacement standing by, retired General Andrew Leslie.
Why don’t we just dismiss the regiment and move on, shall we?
I’m Roger Currie