Racism in Canada : First Sikh Defence Minister Harjit Sajjan heckeled in Parliament

Canada’s Defence Minister Harjit Sajjan

Canada’s Defence Minister Harjit Sajjan

In a first of its sorts in the country , the Canada’s first Sikh Defence Minister Harjit Sajjan has been heckled in Parliament, with an Opposition member shouting that MPs needed an ‘English-to-English’ translation as he spoke, an act dubbed as ‘racist’.

Veteran Conservative MP Jason Kenney initially sparked off the ugly  controversy in the question period in Parliament with the heckle directed at Sajjan while the minister was responding about the military mission against the Islamic State.Kenney, a former defence minister himself, said MPs needed an English-to-English translation of Sajjan’s responses.

Sajjan, 45, was in November named Canada’s Defence Minister as Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s 30-member Liberal Cabinet was sworn in. He is a combat veteran and has served in Bosnia and had three deployments to Kandahar, Afghanistan. He was born in India and moved to Canada with his family when he was five-years-old. Sajjan’s fellow Liberals were quick to pounce on Kenney, describing his heckling  as racist, the Huffington Post Canada reported.

After question period, Liberal Kevin Lamoureux rose on a point of order asking Kenney to apologise for an “inappropriate comment” directed at the Defence Minister. Lamoureux charged that Kenney “stated from across his seat that we need to have English-to-English translation” while Sajjan was speaking. “I’m wondering if the member would do the proper thing and apologise or at the very least explain his comments,” Lamoureux was quoted as saying.

Indian-origin Liberal MP Ruby Sahota did not mince words, calling Kenney’s refusal to apologise “unacceptable.” “Shame on @jkenney for his racist remarks during today’s qp toward #harjitsajjan. His refusal to apologise is unacceptable,” she tweeted.