Defense Minister Pitches Military as Opportunity – By Ray Hudson

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Defense Minister Harjit Sajjan, speaks to Surrey business audience at Mayor’s breakfast.
– as business customer, and cadet training as alternative to gang involvement
Defense Minister Harjit Sajjan, speaks to Surrey business audience at Mayor’s breakfast.
Defense Minister Harjit Sajjan, speaks to Surrey business audience at Mayor’s breakfast.

In a presentation to the Surrey Mayor’s Breakfast for Business, National Defense Minister Harjit Sajjan, MP for Vancouver South, suggested that a higher awareness of the Canadian Armed Forces may be of significant value to both the business community and in offering an alternative to young people in avoiding gang life.

The career soldier, who also spent a decade with the Vancouver Police Department dealing with gang issues prior to his service, said the Canadian military has much to offer. He reminded the audience that there is a continuing demand for goods and services, from small items up to the aircraft, ships, vehicles and communications systems that allow the armed forces to function. He then talked about the program of Colonels and Captains, and their liaison role between the military, the community and business.

Capt Anita Huberman
Capt Anita Huberman

Sajjan singled out Anita Hubberman, the CEO of the Surrey Board of Trade, dressed in the uniform of a Canadian Navy Captain, a participant in the Honourary Captain, Honourary Colonel program.

“With full access to the military, they play a very important role as a link between Canadians and the military,” said Minister Sajjan, and we need more successful women to take on this honourary role. The federal cabinet has 50% women and 50% men and we are working very hard for this program to achieve the same level. So I’m challenging you (Capt. Huberman), now that you’re wearing this uniform, the orders are coming down that you need to find more women who can inspire others to wear this uniform, to take this important role of representing the military to business and the community at large, and by representing them back to the military, because it’s not just about ships, planes and guns. Canada needs to understand what it means to our economy. The military does a significant amount of business and that link with companies all across Canada is very important.”

Sajjan commented on the growth of Surrey as a key city in the Canadian fabric, reminiscing that when he attended Kwantlen Collage twenty-six years before, their classes were in portables in Newton, whereas both Kwantlen Polytechnic University and Simon Fraser offer leading edge education and training to benefit business looking for appropriately trained people to hire. Congratulating Mayor Linda Hepner and the Council for the work in developing the city, he said the exciting rapid growth of Surrey represents an opportunity for the many veterans who live here.

“This is why I’m very proud that my government has announced the opening of a new Veterans Affairs Centre in Surrey. It’s exactly what we need, a new vision of how our veterans, old and new can integrate into this by using technology to connect with other veterans around the world with the new technologies going into the veterans centre here.”

Sajjan then turned his attention to the issue of gang violence, a subject with which he has considerable experience.

“With all this development comes challenges and as a British Columbian and a father I’m very sensitive and aware of the recent gang violence that is shaping Surrey. I want all of you to know that the federal government is working very closely with the mayor, and the various levels of government are very cognizant of this. As a former Vancouver Police member of the Gang Crime Unit, who did a lot of this work in Surrey at the time, I can say with absolute certainty that the leadership that the Mayor has shown, and the direction she has taken is going in the right direction. It does take time but it’s going to happen, and it’s not just an enforcement thing it’s how we get the community leaders and different levels of government together. I’m very happy to say that the initiatives you are taking as a community are going to have a tremendous impact.
I also want to mention that we as a community, we as a government all need to work together. Whether you’re here in Surrey or in Halifax, these challenges face all of us as parents, as community leaders. We need to talk about preventing our children from choosing a life of crime. These are the kind of conversations I want to be focusing on in making sure that what our children are getting out of the gang lifestyle, should be replaced with something else. And in that respect, don’t forget the cadets. I think it’s a great opportunity. The cadet experience is one of the best leadership opportunities our country has.”
“We need to support this because it’s a phenomenal mechanism but we have to be able to turn this into an inclusive reality for all communities, and how we translate that into future potential, whether it’s the young people continuing on in the military or becoming lawyers and doctors. I’m very open to looking at expansion of units, here in Surrey and across the country.”
There are fine men and women in uniform. You want to be part of a team and do some good? We have the military. We have the police force. There are so many things out there and we need to be get those choices out. Because of the leadership you have shown, I’m hoping that through these challenges, Surrey’s going to be another model of what we can offer around Canada as to how we can look at these things.

The minster was asked if, given that Surrey has some of the largest groups of young people in BC, if it be suitable for a new or existing regiment to be created or relocated here.

Sajjan said that when it comes to the growth of a regiment or expansion of a current unit, he’s looking at allowing certain units to grow further. He cautioned that there are consequences to every action.
“If you grow the number of people in a unit, you have to make sure you have the right equipment, the right facilities, communication equipment so all that needs to be taken into account. When I was a young captain a long time ago I saw the potential in Surrey and now that I’m the minister of national defense I assure you that I’m looking at those opportunities. We have to do it in a manner that we’re not just growing the military for us, but for the benefit of all of us.”