‘It was a betrayal of his most basic duty’: Five Tweets on Minister Sajjan’s controversial orders during the fall of … – The Hub

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Harjit Sajjan, Canada’s minister of defence during the fall of Kabul in August of 2021, has been accused of prioritizing Afghan Sikhs over Canadians and former locally engaged staff when the federal government airlifted civilians out of Afghanistan.

Amidst the chaos, Canada left behind 1,250 Canadian citizens, permanent residents, their families, and several hundred interpreters and fixers who helped the Canadian Armed Forces during Canada’s 13-year presence in the country. New reporting from the Globe and Mail alleges Sajjan meanwhile ordered the Canadian special forces to prioritize rescuing 225 Afghan Sikhs.

Sajjan, a Sikh man himself, insists his actions did not demonstrate preferential treatment or put Canadians at risk. He added that rescuing vulnerable groups—LGBTQ, women, and religious minorities—was a priority for the federal government.

Here are five Tweets responding to Sajjan’s controversial orders during the fall of Kabul.

Late last week, journalists Robert Fife and Steven Chase broke the news with a Globe and Mail article headlined “Sajjan instructed special forces to rescue Afghan Sikhs during fall of Kabul.”

Military sources confirmed that Canadian soldiers were told to divert their attention and resources away from Canadian citizens and permanent residents and towards a dangerous mission that involved rescuing Sikhs with no connection to Canada.

“In a humanitarian crisis, we have a responsibility to get Canadians out first and we get Afghans out who helped us out next. Once you get all those people out, you can start to look at the rest,” said retired major-general David Fraser, who led troops in Afghanistan during the war and was a part of private evacuation efforts.

Former lieutenant-colonel Andrew Scheidl wrote on X that “Sajjan should have been fired from cabinet for this immediately in 2021. It was a betrayal of his most basic duty of protecting Canadian citizens.” The former soldier pointed to the fact that the evacuation took place amidst a Canadian federal election, a period the minister said he was not checking his emails.

Canada’s Afghan airlift efforts ended on August 27, 2021, a day after the Sikh rescue mission failed when the group of Sikhs got cold feet and left the rendezvous point before Canadian soldiers could get to them. They later managed to escape to India.

When Sajjan was questioned by the media, he called the claims made by Fife and Chase “utter B.S.”

He clarified that he provided “direction” following the chain of command, rather than an “order.” Still, military sources have countered that a directive from the minister of defence is the same as receiving an order.

The now emergency preparedness minister cited an approved government policy that entailed rescuing vulnerable Afghan religious minorities, Sikhs and Hindus, as the reason for his directive. That policy was the result of the government’s partnership with the Manmeet Singh Bhullar Foundation, a Canadian NGO that advocates for the safety of persecuted religious minorities in Afghanistan.

The foundation quickly came to the minister’s defence, writing that, “The unnamed sources in the article and countless keyboard warriors online are wholly misguided” when they said that Afghan Sikhs and Hindus were not to be directly helped by the government. They also disputed the idea that a specific rescue mission had been planned.

In responding to further questioning, Sajjan said that he would not be receiving this scrutiny if he, “was not wearing a turban.” He said that the “racism” he, in his mind, is facing from individuals questioning his actions “needs to be called out.”

His critics saw this response as a cop-out.

Fife and Chase, in their typical fashion, followed up their initial piece with the breaking news that some affiliates and executives of the Manmeet Singh Bhullar Foundation made several personal donations worth thousands of dollars to Sajjan’s riding association during and shortly after the fall of Kabul, coinciding with the 2021 federal election. Sajjan’s office said he had no comment on the donations.

The Bloc Québécois is calling on the government to investigate Sajjan’s role in the rescue operation.

In recent polling, the Trudeau Liberals are behind the Poilievre Conservatives by double digits. Needless to say, this latest scandal (on top of Minister Sajjan’s previous scandals) will not do them any favours. As the party attempts to appeal to Canadians, Norman Spector, a former chief of staff to Prime Minister Brian Mulroney, speculated that it is “hard to imagine” that Sajjan has not submitted his resignation or been asked by Trudeau’s chief of staff to do so yet.

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