Sajjan’s criticism not the Canadian way

Commentary with Geoff deGannes

Published on May 19, 2017

Commentary with Geoff deGannes

Canada’s beleaguered Defence Minister Harjit Sajjan has found out the hard way that overstating your role in a military action can leave you vulnerable to attack from your political opponents.  

And like a dog with a bone, the Opposition Conservatives and NDP mounted a relentless campaign recently in their efforts to try and force the Minister’s resignation. This despite his continued apologies for what he has termed a mistake and an obvious lapse in judgement on his part.
In a speech in India last month, Sajjan described himself as the "architect" of Operation Medusa, a major combat offensive in Afghanistan in 2006. The 15-day battle was overseen by then major-general David Fraser who was in charge of all NATO forces in southern Afghanistan. That Sajjan would describe himself as the architect raised eyebrows in military circles.
However, while the decorated war hero may have overstated his role in Operation Medusa, there are military brass who say Sajjan’s role certainly shouldn’t be understated. Even General Fraser said of Sajjan's contribution: "His analysis was so compelling that it drove a number of large scale theatre-resourced efforts, including Operation Medusa..."
And then there’s retired senior British Army Officer Chris Vernon, who was Chief of Staff to the Coalition Task Force Headquarters at the time, who said in a Toronto radio interview that "(Sajjan) was a major player in the design team that put together Operation Medusa. He was able to put together an intelligence picture of the Taliban and the tribal dynamics west of Kandahar, without which we probably wouldn’t have been able to mount Operation Medusa. So that’s what he did. Pretty significant stuff.” He calls Sajjan a pivotal player. It is also worth noting that Sajjan was decorated by the Governor General for his contribution to the War in Afghanistan.
It is baffling that the opposition believes they can continue to score cheap political points by dragging the minister’s reputation through the mud while at the same time insighting the extreme fringe element of racists and anti-immigrant proponents on social media who have taken delight in “piling on” over this issue.
Is this how we should honour the sacrifice of a combat veteran? It is certainly not the Canadian way!
It is utter hypocrisy to hear Sajjan’s political opponents, most of whom have never seen a day of military combat, passing judgement on his actions and refusing to accept anything short of his resignation.
While this story has likely run the course of the news cycle, in its wake a cabinet minister has seen his credibility diminished for the so-called misdemeanor of “bragging” about his military role.

Geoff deGannes is the past chairman of the Tantramar Radio Society. His daily commentaries can be heard on 107.9 CFTA.