Honourable Minister Harjit Singh Sajjan is the current Minister of National Defence and a Member of Parliament representing the riding of Vancouver South. Sajjan was first elected during the 2015 federal election and was sworn into Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s cabinet as defence minister 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.
How does it feel becoming Canada’s Defence Minister?
It is a very humbling feeling to be selected by the Prime Minster, and the confidence he has given me in this very important role. I am honoured to have this new role.
What are your plans ahead as the Minister of National Defence?
I want to first of all work on our campaign promises regarding defence. To make sure we do proper defence renewal, which is going to be looking at all the new threats around the world and how Canada will play its part with the rest of the world, especially with our allies. Also, making sure that all our Canadian forces have the right equipment to be able to be ready for the mission to the future
What is your most important area of work right now?
One particular one is making sure that the Canadian forces have the right capability to handle the future threats that we face. Also, making sure we have the right capability for humanitarian response and a responsibility for United Nations Peacekeeping operations, while we never be mindful of the fight against terrorism around the world too. While we do all of this, we have to make sure to look after the men and women wearing uniform who we ask a lot of when we send them off to many demanding roles.
What are your views on the refugee situation at the moment? What is Canada doing about this crisis?
It’s a crisis that has been created because of a conflict in Syria, and Canada has a role to play with the rest of the world to easing that burden. We are committed to having at lest 25,000 refugees enter Canada, and we are well into our way in making sure that Canada lives up to this commitment.
What is your role in it?
We are going to be in a supportive role to assist Immigration Minister John McCallum and his ministry to making sure that that they have the right resources. We will be assisting with transportation, medical personnel, security, and if needed, we can also provide temporary accommodation as well.
What is the most difficult task for you right now?
This is a very complex ministry because we have day-to-day operations that are going on. We have to look at the needs of the men and women who serve Canada, but at the same time make sure that we have the right capabilities - making sure that we focus on procurement, making sure that we have the procurements right. We have a more accurate procurement system that is going to provide accurate numbers in terms of the cost and what we need as we move forward. So one of the things I would really like to get a grip of is our procurement system.
Do share your views on the Canadian defence system.
Our defence system is not lacking anything. People will be really impressed to know that the capabilities that we do have. Our numbers may not be as large as some of our allies in the USA. However, in terms of our capability from our special forces, navy or army, and our air force, we are second to no one and we probably provide the highest level of capability for a multitude of tasks.
There are a lot of threats going around globally. What is your take on that?
With the current threats around the world – the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIS) component - it’s just one threat and it is a severe threat that we do need to deal with. But we also need to be mindful of the threats around the globe, and there the ISIS has reached into other nations. My number one priority will always be the safety of Canadians and making sure that we can identify the threats even before they reach Canada
How is Canada dealing with these threats?
We have a very sophisticated intelligence system and we always make sure that our intelligence system is looking at the right threat screens in various portions of the world so that we can identify those threats. One of the things is that we never want to talk about our intelligence capability, but we do have a very robust intelligence capability that can look at a lot of these threat screens.
As the Defence Minister, what message would you want to give to the residents of Canada?
I know that the Canadians are very proud of the men and women who serve the country. Not only because I had served, but as a Minister of National Defence, there is a lot to be proud of. The greatest asset the Canadian military has is its people. So the men and women who serve are the best in the world and the Canadian public has a lot to be proud of.