Canada defence minister Harjit Sajjan’s big challenge is to hold on to his job
Toronto: Canada’s minister of national defence Harjit Sajjan, who retained his seat in the House of Commons in the Federal elections, faces a tough challenge holding to his portfolio amid calls for his removal due to the sexual misconduct crisis in the Canadian Armed Forces under his watch. Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeu is expected to announce his new cabinet team later this month.
The country’s former Chief of Defence Staff, General Jonathan Vance, 57, resigned in January this year jut before allegations emerged that he allegedly had an inappropriate relationship. In July, he was also charged with obstructing justice. The former top soldier has denied the charges.
Harjit Sajjan has come under severe criticism after the military ombudsman of the time revealed that the defence minister was informed of the Vance’s alleged “improper conduct” with a subordinate in 2018. In May, an advisor to Trudeau testified before the House of Commons Defence Committee that she was aware of the allegations.
Former New Democratic Party leader Tom Mulcair told television channel CTV, “Defence Minister Harjit Sajjan has been an abject failure in dealing with the issue of sexual misconduct in the military. Women who have courageously come forward have felt betrayed.”
To be sure, Sajjan was censured by the House of Commons in a vote in June this year. He has defended himself, saying “We take all allegations very seriously, as I did and brought the immediate information to the appropriate officials.”
There were accusations that Sajjan did not act against Vance due to their long relationship, as they both served together in Afghanistan. Vance’s successor Admiral Art McDonald also had to step aside less than a month-and-a-half into his term as he also faces an investigation by the Canadian Forces National Investigation Service.
More such incidents have come to light since, and the attacks on Harjit Sajjan have only mounted.
Writing in the Ottawa Citizen, David Pugliese said Sajjan “isn’t expected back at National Defence” and has been “largely seen as ineffective and, in the eyes of some critics, incompetent.”
According to news outlet Global News, Steve Saideman, director of the Canadian Defence and Security Network, called the minister’s tenure a “disaster.”
“If this government were to keep Sajjan on, it would send a strong message that they don’t care about women in the military,” Saideman said.
National Post columnist Sabrina Maddeaux opinion, “If Prime Minister Justin Trudeau is at all serious about changing the military’s toxic culture, when he names his new cabinet in October, there must be a new defence minister.” She added that Sajjan had “lost all credibility when it comes to the institution’s sexual misconduct crisis.”