On Wednesday, Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau unveiled his new cabinet in which four of the 36 ministers are of Indian origin.
Three Indian origin members who served in Trudeau’s previous cabinet have again been made ministers– Harjit Sajjan, Navdeep Bains, and Bardish Chagger. Amarjeet Sohi, who previously held the Infrastructure and Natural Resources ministries, lost re-election in the 2019 polls.
The new Indian-origin face in the cabinet is Anita Anand, the first Hindu to occupy a ministerial berth in Canada. Read | What US legislature on Hong Kong means
In the October general elections, 20 Indian-origin candidates became parliamentarians. Trudeau’s Liberal party lost its majority in the bitterly fought polls, but managed to remain in power.
Who are the four Indian origin ministers in Trudeau’s cabinet?
Harjit Sajjan, Minister of National Defence
Sajjan is Member of Parliament from Vancouver South in British Columbia, a constituency he won for the second time in the 2019 elections. He held the Defence portfolio for the entirety of the first cabinet, and continues to hold the position.
Sajjan was born in Bombeli in Punjab’s Hoshiarpur district, and was a five-year-old when he came to Vancouver with his older sister and mother in 1976. His father, Kundan Singh, had been a police officer in India who immigrated to Vancouver.
Prior to entering politics, Sajjan has had a decorated career as a police officer and as a combat veteran. He was a member of the Vancouver Police Department for 11 years, based primarily in South Vancouver, where he completed his career as a detective with the gang crime unit. He took a break from the Police service to join the British Columbia Regiment of the Canadian Army in 1989 as a trooper and from there, rose to the position of Lieutenant-Colonel.
As a reserve Lieutenant-Colonel in the Canadian Armed Forces and a member of the British Columbia Regiment, he participated in four operational deployments – one to Bosnia-Herzegovina and three in Kandahar, Afghanistan. In September 2011, he also became the first Sikh to command any Canadian Army regiment – his British Columbia Regiment. For his service, he has received glowing praise and awarded several military honours by the Canadian government, including the Meritorious Service Medal in 2013 for reducing the Taliban’s influence in the Kandahar province of Afghanistan, and the Order of Military Merit in 2014.
In the 2015 general elections, his nomination had been backed by prominent Sikh leaders of the World Sikh Organization (WSO), which led a large number of Punjabi-Sikh Liberals (nearly 4000) from British Columbia to quit the party in protest. The resigning contingent had alleged that the Liberal Party was being “hijacked” and Trudeau “manipulated” by fundamentalist Sikhs under the banner of the WSO.
During his visit to India as Defence Minister in 2017, Punjab Chief Minister Captain Amarinder Singh accused Sajjan of being a “Khalistan supporter” and refused to meet him. The Canadian High Commission termed Amarinder’s remarks “disappointing and inaccurate”. Sajjan has said in a statement to the Vancouver Sun, “I don’t support the breakup of any country. I’m a Canadian. I want to focus on Canadian issues”.
Navdeep Bains, Minister of Innovation, Science and Industry
Bains represents Mississauga-Malton in Ontario, and has been a Member of Parliament twice before. Born in Toronto to immigrant parents, Bains has worked as a financial analyst and was a visiting faculty at Ryerson University.
He is a long-term friend and advisor of Prime Minister Trudeau, and has served as his Parliamentary Secretary. The 38-year-old also has served in shadow cabinet positions when the Liberal party was in opposition.
In May 2018, Bains made headlines when he was asked to take off his turban at an airport in the US during a security check, prompting senior US officials to apologise.
Bardish Chagger, Minister of Diversity and Inclusion and Youth
Chagger was born and raised in the Waterloo region, and attended the University of Waterloo where she was the president of the Young Liberals. The 39-year-old won re-election from the Waterloo seat in Ontario during the 2019 election.
The Sikh MP served as the Minister of Small Business and Tourism in Trudeau’s previous cabinet from 2015 to 2018. In 2016, she was named as the new Leader of the government in Canada’s House of Commons, becoming the first woman to hold the post in the country’s history. Read | Why Israel’s PM Netanyahu has been indicted for corruption
In the new Trudeau cabinet, Chagger holds the Diversity and Inclusion and Youth portfolio, a newly created post.
Anita Anand, Minister of Public Services and Procurement
Born in Nova Scotia, Anand is a first-time Member of Parliament elected from Oakville in Ontario. She is the first Hindu to be appointed as cabinet minister in the North American country.
Since 2006, Anand is a law professor at the University of Toronto, and has previously taught at Western University, Yale Law School and Queen’s University.
In 2015, Anand became a member of the Ontario government’s Expert Committee to Consider Financial Planning Policy Alternatives, and has conducted research for a commission investigating the bombing of Air India Flight 182. Anand has served on the Advisory Board of the India Canada Association and as a board member of the Canadian Museum of Indian Civilization.
According to the Liberal party website, Anand holds the J.R. Kimber Chair in Investor Protection and Corporate Governance at the University of Toronto, is a Senior Fellow and member of the Governing Board of Massey College, and is the Director of Policy and Research at the Capital Markets Research Institute.
Anand has been described as an expert in corporate governance and shareholder rights.
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