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Harjit Sajjan. Photo screenshot cpac.ca

Sajjan: “I am owning up to my mistake to be able to continue to learn from it”

Harjit S. Sajjan, Minister of National Defence, apologized in parliament for the “mistake” he did in describing his role as the architect of Operation Medusa in Afghanistan in 2006.

Sajjan rejected the opposition’s calls for his resignation saying that he will continue to serve the men and women of the Canadian Armed Forces.

The following are excerpts from the debate in parliament (May 1, 2017):

Harjit S. Sajjan (Minister of National Defence, Lib.):

Mr. Speaker, thank you for the opportunity to apologize for my mistake in describing my role. I retract that description and I am truly sorry for it. I in no way intended to diminish the great work that our men and women in the Canadian Armed Forces have done, and their superiors, and I am truly sorry for it.

Pierre Paul-Hus (Charlesbourg—Haute-Saint-Charles, CPC):

Mr. Speaker, the minister made a very important statement. He said he was the creator, the architect, of Operation Medusa, the largest military operation since the Korean War. Is the Prime Minister comfortable having a defence minister who uses such elastic ethics to enhance his own prestige? If he keeps him in cabinet, we will know the answer is yes.

Harjit S. Sajjan:

Mr. Speaker, I am not here to make any excuses. I intend to own my mistake, apologize for it, learn from it, and continue to serve.

Cheryl Gallant (Renfrew—Nipissing—Pembroke, CPC):

Mr. Speaker, the minister was caught claiming to be the architect of Operation Medusa. It was not a slip-up. It was intentional, because he got caught repeating the story. Canadians deserve to know. Why did the minister concoct this story, and how are Canadians supposed to trust this minister?

Harjit S. Sajjan:

Mr. Speaker, as I stated, I am not here standing up to make any excuses for it. I am here to be able to acknowledge my mistake, to be able to apologize for it, and to be able to learn from it so I can continue to serve the men and women of the Canadian Armed Forces.

Cheryl Gallant:

Mr. Speaker, the minister has admitted to concocting stories about his service record. Now he says he is sorry, but only after he got caught. When did the minister decide it was acceptable to start making up stories about his service record? Why did he think it was acceptable to take credit for the work of others, and how are the military and Canadians supposed to have confidence in anything this minister says?

Harjit S. Sajjan:

Mr. Speaker, I am not here to talk about my service record. I am here to apologize for my mistake and to be able to learn from it. As I also stated earlier, I in no way intended to diminish the great work of my former superiors and our soldiers. I want to be able to learn from my mistake and to continue to serve, as I have always done and will continue to do every day as long as I am the Minister of Defence.

John Brassard (Barrie—Innisfil, CPC):

Mr. Speaker, the Prime Minister’s mandate letter to the Minister of National Defence uses the word “honesty” at least eight times. Within the letter, it reads: Canadians expect us, in our work, to reflect the values we all embrace:.. honesty… Canadians need to have faith in their government’s honesty…We have committed to an…honest government that is accountable to Canadians… you must uphold the highest standards of honesty… it is important that your behaviour and decisions meet Canadians’ well-founded expectations. Will the Prime Minister admit that the Minister of National Defence has not lived up to the well-founded expectations of Canadians and remove him from office?

Harjit S. Sajjan:

Mr. Speaker, as I stated, I have acknowledged my mistake. I am not here to make any excuses for it. I am owning it. I am learning from it. I will continue to work, learn from those lessons, and continue to work and serve the Canadian Armed Forces, the men and women who serve us.

John Brassard:

Mr. Speaker, it is not just the military who find the Minister of National Defence’s yarn about his fictional role in Afghanistan to be an embarrassment. We all know that the Liberals like to reference social media as a way to consult with Canadians. Well, Twitter was in a flurry over the weekend with the #[Minister of National Defence] Battles, mocking him relentlessly on his personal involvement in everything from the War of 1812 right up to the destruction of the Death Star. After hearing this kind of feedback from Canadians, would the Prime Minister not agree that the minister has lost all credibility?

Harjit S. Sajjan:

Mr. Speaker, my focus is always going to be to continue to serve the Canadian Armed Forces, the men and women who serve. I will always do that. I acknowledge my mistake. I will be learning from it. As I stated, I in no way intended to diminish the great work of our Canadian Armed Forces members who served during that time.

Thomas Mulcair (Outremont, NDP):

Mr. Speaker, the Minister of National Defence concocted a tall tale. He fancies himself the architect of one of the most important battles of the entire war in Afghanistan. The quandary for the Liberal government is that the minister played no such role. Can the Prime Minister tell us whether he has called on his minister to explain this trumped up story? We want to know whether the Prime Minister has talked to him about this.

Harjit S. Sajjan:

Mr. Speaker, I will answer the opposition member in the same manner. I am not here to make excuses. I am here to acknowledge my mistake, to be able to learn from it so I can continue to serve.

Thomas Mulcair:

Mr. Speaker, it is well noted that the Prime Minister is refusing to respond to a party leader. This is a breach of parliamentary protocol and tradition. It is what happens when there is no possible answer to a Minister of National Defence who has told a whopper about his record. That is not something one would apologize for. It is something one has to step down for.

Harjit S. Sajjan:

Mr. Speaker, I am not here to talk about my service record. I am here to be able to own up to my mistake, to learn from it, and to be able to continue to serve.

James Bezan (Selkirk—Interlake—Eastman, CPC):

Mr. Speaker, the defence minister knows that there are consequences for being dishonest and untrustworthy under the military’s code of conduct and ethics, and the defence minister understands that as a veteran. The minister’s apology does not repair the damage he created. Canadians do not believe him. Our military does not trust him. How can the Prime Minister have any confidence in the minister?

Harjit S. Sajjan:

Mr. Speaker, I am owning up to my mistake to be able to continue to learn from it. I did retract that description. I in no way intended to diminish the great work our men and women in the Canadian Armed Forces have done. I hope to learn from that mistake so I can continue to serve the women and men of the Canadian Armed Forces.

James Bezan:

Mr. Speaker, how many times has the minister said that fib over the last two years? Veterans are disgusted that the minister took credit for his role in the battlefield that involved hundreds of soldiers. That is valour stolen. The defence minister is now a laughingstock. His reputation is damaged beyond repair. Canadians do not believe him. The military does not trust him, and our allies are not going to take him seriously. How can the Prime Minister still have confidence in the defence minister?

Harjit S. Sajjan:

Mr. Speaker, I am not here to make excuses or to give reasons. I am here to acknowledge my mistake, to be able to own it directly, to be able to learn from it and carry on and continue to serve the Canadian Armed Forces.

Candice Bergen (Portage—Lisgar, CPC):

Mr. Speaker, the defence minister’s defence of this is that it was a mistake, except that does not hold water, and the reason why it does not hold water is because he repeated it more than once. That is not a mistake. That is a fabrication. Now he refuses to accept the accountability and the consequences of the fabrication he told. How can Canadians, how can the military, how can the Prime Minister trust the defence minister? If he is going to mislead on something this important, what else is he going to be misleading–

Harjit S. Sajjan:

Mr. Speaker, I made a mistake in describing my role. I wish to be able to retract that. In no way did I intend to diminish the great work of the Canadian Armed Forces during Operation Medusa or any other operation. I am owning that mistake. I will be learning from it so I can continue to serve.

Candice Bergen:

Mr. Speaker, our men and women in uniform deserve a leader who does not waver from telling the truth, whose word is his bond. They deserve a leader who can be trusted every time, always. The minister has failed, so I ask him: does he really believe that our men and women in uniform deserve a defence minister who is willing to fabricate the truth in order to bolster his own record?

Harjit S. Sajjan:

Mr. Speaker, I have apologized for my mistake. I will be learning from this, owning the mistake, and not making any excuses for the mistake.

To watch the video click HERE.



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