Racist slur on Sikh Defence Minister's accent rocks Canadian parliament

Toronto: Canada's first Sikh Defence Minister Harjit Sajjan became a victim of racism inside the Parliament during a questioning session when an opposition member interrupted him in the middle of his speech shouting that an
racist slur on sikh defence minister s accent...
India TV News Desk February 04, 2016 23:34 IST

Toronto: Canada's first Sikh Defence Minister Harjit Sajjan became a victim of racism inside the Parliament during a questioning session when an opposition member interrupted him in the middle of his speech shouting that an "English-to- English" translation was required to understand his words.

Sparking off a controversy with his ‘racist' act, the opposition member Jason Kenney, who is himself a former Defence Minister heckled Sajjan while he was responding to a question on the military mission against the Islamic State. Kenney is believed to have told the House that the members would need an ‘English-to-English' translation of the responses.

Harjit Sajjan, 45, was named as Canada's Defence Minister in November as Prime Minister Justin Trudeau's 30-member Liberal cabinet was sworn in. Being a combat veteran, he has served in Bosnia and had three deployments to Kandahar, Afghanistan.

Soon after the heckling, Sajjan's fellow Liberals pounced on Kenney and accused him of racism. After question period, Liberal Kevin Lamoureux rose a point of order asking Kenney to apologize 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.

Kenney rejected calls to apologize in the House of Commons but later took to Twitter to explain why he made the comment, saying he found the minister's answer "totally incoherent."

Another Indian-origin MP Raj Grewal said, "Kenney should apologise for his comments in question period today when Harjit Sajjan was speaking."

Kenney responded to Grewal, saying he respects Sajjan -- "a fine, intelligent man" -- and featured him as "a role model in the Discover Canada Citizenship guide" when he served as Immigration minister.

"Unfortunately, I find his answers on ending combat against ISIS to be at best unpersuasive (and) at worst incoherent," Kenney wrote, adding he was sorry if his comment was "misconstrued in any way."

Harjit Sajjan, 45, was named as Canada's Defence Minister in November as Prime Minister Justin Trudeau's 30-member Liberal cabinet was sworn in. Being a combat veteran, he 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.

 
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