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In a press conference defending his actions as the former minister of defence, Harjit Sajjan accused the Globe and Mail of racism for an article alleging he had prioritized the rescue of Sikhs in Afghanistan during the fall of Kabul.

The bombshell report stated that as minister of defence, Sajjan ordered the Canadian special forces to help evacuate Afghan Sikhs, which military sources say limited their ability to allocate resources to evacuating Canadian citizens.

At the press conference, Sajjan said that this report more than likely would not have been published if he did not wear a turban.

“I’ll be honest with you, I didn’t think I’ll be getting those questions if I wasn’t wearing a turban,” said Sajjan.

Sajjan went on to share a conversation he had with his daughter a few days prior about the racism that she saw on social media.

True North reached out to the story’s authors to comment on the allegation of racism, though no response was given.

According to anonymous military sources, Sajjan instructed the special forces to rescue about 225 Afghans despite it not being an operational priority for the armed forces.

The sources said that the order took resources away from getting Canadian citizens and Afghans linked to Canada on final evacuation flights out of Kabul.

Sajjan gave the order after a Canadian Sikh group passed on information to the minister regarding the location of the Afghan Sikhs. 

One source said that in the last 24 hours in Kabul before the evacuation deadline, special forces were solely dedicated to getting Afghan Sikhs out.

The mission was ultimately unsuccessful, as the Sikhs deserted the rendezvous point before special forces could reach them, as soldiers arrived later than expected. 

Sajjan said that while one of the Canadian military’s priorities was to evacuate religious minorities who would face persecution at the hands of the Taliban, evacuating Canadians was the number one priority. 

The end of the evacuation mission from Kabul left a sizable number of Canadians and permanent residents behind in Afghanistan, though the exact figure is unknown.

Sajjan defended the order that he gave the military as minister of defence, stating that the military is subject to civilian control and that his job was to give orders to the Canadian Forces reflecting the government’s will.

Member of Parliament for Spadina–Fort York Kevin Vuong criticized Sajjan, implying that Sajjan lied about his conduct during the fall of Kabul.

“In 2023, @HarjitSajjan  said he wasn’t checking his emails during the Fall of Kabul. Now, he’s claiming he “relayed location information and other details about the Sikhs to the military. Canadians deserve to know when he lied,” said Vuong.