Ottawa: Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has rebuffed resignation calls for Defence Minister Harjit Sajjan over his “architect comments for a 2006 offensive against the Taliban, media reports said.
Trudeau and his embattled minister endured a withering question-period offensive on Monday as opposition MPs accused Sajjan of “stolen valour” for overstating his role in planning Operation Medusa in Afghanistan, The Toronto Star. Opposition parties trained their sights squarely on Sajjan, who apologised again in the House of Commons. The Operation Medusa was one of the bloodiest and most pivotal battles of the Afghan war.
Interim Conservative leader Rona Ambrose called it a “cardinal sin” in the military circles for stealing valours of others. “How much more does the Prime Minister need to hear before he understands why our men and women in uniform have lost confidence in the Minister,” Ambrose said. Trudeau, however, would not be moved from his talking points. “The Minister made a mistake,” the Prime Minister said repeatedly. “He acknowledged his responsibility and apologised for it; that’s what Canadians expect when one makes a mistake,” The Toronto Sun reported.
Trudeau went on to insist that Sajjan had served his country with distinction in a number of capacities, including as a police officer and as a soldier. As a Minister, he added, “He has my full confidence.” Sajjan, for his part, later rose and repeated his apology. What Sajjan didn’t do is explain his “mistake,” which Ambrose noted he’d made twice – once in 2015 and again two weeks ago during his India visit.
As such, his apology did little to assuage the opposition, with both the Conservatives and the Democratics calling on Trudeau to sack him. “It’s not an error when you keep repeating the same lie,” New Democratic Party Leader Tom Mulcair said after question period. In speech in New Delhi on April 18, Sajjan told the Indian think tank Observer Research Foundation that he had been the “architect” of Operation Medusa, which the Minister has since retracted.
“On my first deployment to Kandahar in 2006, I was kind of thrown in an unforeseen situation and became the architect of an operation… where we removed about 1,500 Taliban fighters,” Sajjan said in his speech. Sajjan was a Major with the Canadian Forces in Afghanistan during Operation Medusa, and received a special commendation. Hundreds of Taliban fighters were killed or captured over a two-week period. Twelve Canadians were also killed in the fighting.