This week was certainly not an easy one for Canada’s Defense Minister Harjit Sajjan as news broke that he embellished the role he played in a major Canadian-led Afghan offensive known as Operation Medusa.
In April, Sajjan travelled to India and gave a speech claiming that he was the “architect” of the 2006 battle between NATO and Taliban militants.
However, it was revealed that Sajjan overstated the part he played in Operation Medusa and on April 29, he took to Facebook to retract the statements he made about his role.
“The response to my remarks about Operation Medusa has been a good reminder of something important for me as a leader – always set a standard that honours those you serve. Another reminder is to own your mistakes,” wrote Sajjan.
“I made a mistake in describing my role. I wish to retract that description and apologize for it. I am truly sorry.”
This is not the first time that Sajjan has claimed to be the “architect” of Operation Medusa–he did so once before in a 2015 interview.
— James Bezan (@jamesbezan) April 28, 2017
As it became clear that Sajjan gave an inaccurate description of his role, members of the opposition called on him to resign.
However, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has stood behind Sajjan. “When we make a mistake, Canadians expect us to apologize and to acknowledge that mistake. That’s exactly what we did and that is exactly why the Minister of Defense continues to have my full confidence,” said Trudeau during question period in the House of Commons.
Sikh community speaks out
The scandal has hit a note with some members of Canada’s Sikh community as Sajjan is seen as one of the most prominent Sikhs in the country.
Gurpreet Singh, editor of Radical Desi magazine, tells Daily Hive that Sajjan plays a big role in representing the community.
“The thing is, Sikhs are a minority in this country. So if someone represents the community that way, his image comes under question. It definitely impacts the morale of the whole community,” said Singh said, adding that now Sajjan must focus on rebuilding is image.
“He will have to do a lot to build up his image again,” said Singh. “But it’s about fixing the damage that has been made.”
Balpreet Singh, spokesperson for the World Sikh Organization of Canada, believes that Sajjan will be able to overcome the controversy.
“I think the Canadian public, at the end of the day, will be the ones to decide what they think of Minister Sajjan,” said Singh.
“I think his record speaks for itself. He is a decorated war hero and there are many people who have spoken to the important things he has done for Canada. I don’t think anyone can take that away from him.”