British Columbia

Harjit Sajjan: Meet Canada's new 'badass' defence minister

Photos of Canada's new defence minister, Harjit Sajjan, a decorated lieutenant-colonel, are making the rounds on social media — and many refer to the former Vancouver police detective as a 'badass.'

Sajjan served with the military in Bosnia and Afghanistan and as a Vancouver police detective

Harjit Sajjan, Canada's new defence minister, was a lieutenant-colonel in the Canadian Armed Forces and a Vancouver police gang crime unit detective. (Twitter)

Photos of Canada's new defence minister, Harjit Sajjan, a decorated lieutenant-colonel with the Canadian Armed Forces, were making the rounds on social media shortly after his swearing-in on Wednesday in Ottawa, with many highlighting his tough-guy image.

Several on Twitter and Reddit described him as a "badass."

Military background

Sajjan, the newly elected Liberal MP for Vancouver South and member of Prime Minister Justin Trudeau's cabinet, grew up in his riding and later walked the streets of Vancouver as a detective with the Vancouver Police Department's gang crime unit.

He served for 11 years with the police, according to his biography

According to Twitter Canada, the announcement that Sajjan would be joining the cabinet was the Liberal Party's most retweeted post of the day.

Sajjan is a combat veteran. He served one tour in Bosnia and was deployed three times to Afghanistan. 

He was the first Sikh to command a Canadian army regiment — the reserve The British Columbia Regiment (Duke of Connaught's Own). 

​Some compared his on-the-ground experience with the Canadian military to his predecessors. 

He has also been awarded several military honours, including the Meritorious Service Medal in 2013 for reducing the Taliban's influence in the Kandahar province of Afghanistan, and a Canadian Peacekeeping Service Medal. 

Canada's new defence minister is Harjit Sajjan, who has numerous military honours, including the Order of Military Merit, given to him by Governor General David Johnston in June 2014. (Governor General of Canada)

"He was the best single Canadian intelligence asset in theatre, and his hard work, personal bravery, and dogged determination undoubtedly saved a multitude of coalition lives," said Brig.-Gen. David Fraser in a letter to the Vancouver police. 

"Through his courage and dedication, [then] Major Sajjan has singlehandedly changed the face of intelligence gathering and analysis in Afghanistan."

Sajjan is currently still a reservist with the Canadian Forces, which means he is technically a soldier only when he is in uniform, in a base or establishment, in a military conveyance or actually signed in or on duty.

According to the Defence Department, Sajjan requested he be released from the Forces on Oct. 21 and the process is expected to be resolved this week.

"The minister of national defence's release from the Canadian Armed Forces is currently being processed in order to ensure that he receives the appropriate benefits based on his long and honourable service in the CAF," the department said in a statement. 

Political controversy

Sajjan's entry into politics was not without controversy. 

A large contingent of Sikh Liberals in B.C. quit the party last year, saying Trudeau was being "manipulated" by Sikhs under the banner of the World Sikh Organization, when the Liberals selected him as a star candidate over former Liberal MP Barj Dhahan. 

Sajjan is the son of a veteran WSO board member, Kundan Sajjan, who led fundamentalist Sikhs in a losing battle with moderates over control of the Ross Street Temple in South Vancouver.

Meanwhile, Dhahan was a moderate ally of Ujjal Dosanjh, the previous Liberal MP.

The younger Sajjan denied he was a member of the WSO at the time. 

Family man

Sajjan is also a family man. He is married to Dr. Kuljit Kaur Sajjan, a family doctor, and they have two young children

Harjit Sajjan, seen here in a picture with his wife Dr. Kuljit Kaur Sajjan and two children, will be Canada's new defence minister. (Liberal Party of Canada)

According to his website, Sajjan and his wife have also sponsored four children, and support many charities that promote health and education for impoverished children.

With files from James Cudmore