Liberals aren't asking why Sajjan exaggerated Afghanistan role
Published Saturday, May 6, 2017 7:43AM EDT
OTTAWA -- Defence Minister Harjit Sajjan wasn't talking this weekend, while his Liberal colleagues say they simply aren’t asking why he ensnared himself in a scandal by exaggerating his contribution in Afghanistan.
Both Transport Minister Marc Garneau and Liberal MP Stephen Fuhr, a former fighter pilot, said they didn't pose the unanswered question that reporters had put to Sajjan: Why did he say he was the architect of Operation Medusa, one of the biggest battles during the Canadian mission in Afghanistan?
Garneau stepped in to handle interview requests directed to Sajjan this weekend, despite having a different portfolio.
"I have not asked him that and I'm not going to," Garneau said in an interview with Evan Solomon, host of CTV's Question Period.
Fuhr said the same thing.
"I never asked him that question," he told Solomon. "Because ... the fact of the matter is, he took ownership of his characterization of his role. Full stop."
Sajjan faced a week of opposition calls to resign as defence minister, from both the Conservatives and the NDP.
Conservative defence critic James Bezan says the recent speech in India wasn't the first time Sajjan claimed to have been the architect of Operation Medusa.
"It goes back to 2015 when he was still in uniform that he called himself 'the' architect," Bezan said.
"He did his job. He did it well, and his information and intel that he collected helped make Operation Medusa the success it was. But when he overstated it, this is where you have people that actually fought alongside him, as well as those who serve in the Canadian Forces, [who] are outraged."
New Democrat MP Alexandre Boulerice says Sajjan has undermined himself "terribly."
"You can make a mistake with how many days you were in Afghanistan, or dates ... or numbers," he said. "You cannot make a mistake about your own role in the mission and pretending, trying to take the credit to be the architect of a medusa operation when it was not the case.
Garneau said Sajjan, who has the full support of cabinet and of the prime minister, deserves praise for his three tours of duty in Afghanistan and his work in cabinet.
"I'm ex-military, I work with Harjit Sajjan on a number of cabinet committees, including military procurement, and there is not a defence minister that I've known who is more committed to helping our forces to be properly equipped and to take care of our men and women," Garneau said.
Fuhr said the senior military people who were "in theatre" with Sajjan say his role in Afghanistan was instrumental.
"Had he used the word 'an' instead of 'the,' we wouldn't even be having this conversation," Fuhr said.