Sajjan’s office cites privacy, won’t say if he intervened for other Afghan groups – CityNews Halifax

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OTTAWA — The federal Liberals won’t say whether former defence minister Harjit Sajjan intervened on behalf of any other groups trying to flee Afghanistan when Kabul fell to the Taliban in 2021.

Sajjan has said he used “appropriate” channels to relay information to the Canadian Armed Forces about the whereabouts of a group of more than 200 Afghan Sikhs who were trapped.

A spokeswoman for Sajjan, who is now emergency preparedness minister, says it is standard practice to protect the privacy and security of vulnerable groups.

She says that means she cannot provide details about the evacuation attempts, including whether Sajjan intervened on their behalf.

But Sajjan’s office does say that at the time of Canada’s evacuation efforts, the minister, his staff and department officials were receiving many requests for assistance.

Sajjan says he relayed information he was given about the Sikh group, which had been unable to connect directly with the military, and that at no time did he instruct the forces to prioritize their rescue over anyone else’s.

In addition to facilitating the departure of Canadians and Afghan citizens who had aided Canada, western countries tried to help other groups determined to be risk of persecution by the Taliban, including women leaders, human-rights defenders, journalists and religious minorities.

Defence chief Gen. Wayne Eyre said in a recent interview that the military was following “legal orders” when it tried rescuing the group of Afghan Sikhs, as they were on a list of groups for which the government approved assistance.

A parliamentary committee that probed Canada’s evacuation efforts ultimately found the evacuation process was bogged down by bureaucracy and challenged by the fact Canada was one of the first countries to remove its embassy staff, leaving those trying to leave Afghanistan with less help.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published July 3, 2024.

The Canadian Press

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