Prime Minister Trudeau voiced his support for Harjit Sajjan on Friday after opposition parties joined together in the House of Commons to censure the defence minister.
“We know there’s still much more to be done to protect all of those who choose to serve their country,” Trudeau said today. “So it’s unacceptable that Conservative politicians would choose to slander Minister Sajjan’s reputation instead of working with us to keep Canadians in uniform safe.”
When asked if he would fire Sajjan, who has been defence minister since 2015, Trudeau replied: “He continues to have my confidence that he is the right person for the job.” Trudeau's response follows 24 hours after the Conservatives forced a vote in the House of Commons yesterday on a motion expressing disappointment with Sajjan. The motion passed with support from the Bloc Quebecois and NDP.
All three parties have called separately for Sajjan’s resignation.
Sajjan has been criticized since military ombudsman Gary Walbourne revealed that he first flagged an allegation of sexual misconduct involving then-defence chief Jonathan Vance to Sajjan back in 2018. However, Vance did not face any investigation. The Conservative motion also criticized Sajjan for his handling of the court case involving vice-admiral Mark Norman and accused him of misleading Canadians about the Liberals’ decision to withdraw fighter jets from Iraq and his own service record.
Chief of the defence staff Lt.-Gen. Wayne Eyre presided over a change of command ceremony shortly after Trudeau's remarks.
“These are challenging times for the Canadian Armed Forces, times when we face a serious (and) possibly existential threat not from without, but from within,” Eyre said.
“We protect and promote certain values at home and around the world, but it’s become ultra-clear we often failed at protecting and promoting these values within our own ranks. And this has come back on us. It has eroded our credibility with Canadians, faith in leadership, and the vital trust that must exist between every member of the Canadian Armed Forces.”