Even as Justin Trudeau was sworn in as the 23rd Prime Minister of Canada in a ceremony at the historic Rideau Hall in Ottawa, the country’s capital, the Indo-Canadian community also had much to celebrate, with four MPs of Indian-origin part of the new ruling Liberal Party Cabinet, including Vancouver South MP Harjit Sajjan being appointed to the critical post of Minister for National Defence.
In a departure from previous ceremonies, the event on Wednesday morning was open to the public. Trudeau had promised a Cabinet that would have gender parity and he delivered on that assurance as women formed nearly half the new 31 Ministers.
The new Ministers arrived to traditional Aboriginal drumming and Trudeau, the second-youngest PM in Canadian history was conferred his oath of office at approximately 10.45 am to applause within the Hall and cheering from the crowds gathered outside watching the swearing-in on special installed giant screens.
But the significant news for the Indo-Canadian community was Sajjan taking charge as the new Minister for National Defence. Sajjan is perfectly suited to that role. Born in Punjab, Sajjan is a first-time MP, elected from Vancouver South. He has a fascinating biography: A native of Vancouver, he was a Detective for the Gang Crime Unit, which is of particular significance given the prevalence of Indo-Canadian gangs in that metropolitan region. Sajjan went on to military service and served three deployments in Afghanistan, playing an intelligence role in that country. In 2011, he became the first Commander of an army regiment of Sikh-origin as he took charge of the British Columbia Regiment. He left the military in 2014 and soon thereafter entered the political theatre and emerged as the Liberal Party’s candidate for the Vancouver South constituency.
Also joining the Cabinet is Navdeep Bains as Minister of Innovation, Science and Economic Development. Bains, an MBA, was an MP between 2004 and 2011 before he lost in that election. In the years since, he was a visiting professor at the Ryerson University in Toronto. Bains played a critical role in marshalling the Liberal Party’s campaign in the Brampton and Mississauga suburban parts of Toronto, that have a high density of the Indo-Canadian community. As the Liberals swept this region, Bains has been rewarded.
Another Minister is Amarjeet Sohi, taking over as Minister of Infrastructure and Communities. He’s a former city councillor who turned into a giant killer defeating Indo-Canadian Minister Tim Uppal by less than 100 votes in the October 2015 federal elections.
But focus will also be on the youngest member of this four-member contingent and the only woman, 34-year-old Bandish Chagger, who holds a science degree but comes with many years of experience in local politics. She was elected as a first-term MP from Waterloo in the province of Ontario and now becomes Minister of Small Business and Tourism.
Other major portfolios allocated included that of Minister of Finance to Bill Morneau and Minister of Foreign Affairs to Stephane Dion.
The outgoing Conservative Party Government of Stephen Harper had two Ministers of Indian-origin, Tim Uppal and Bal Gosal, who also lost in his re-election bid.