This post was originally published on 5 November 2015.
The Punjabi community in Canada made history on Wednesday when two turbaned Sikhs, among four Indian Canadians, were sworn in as cabinet ministers, as 42-year-old Justin Trudeau took oath as the country’s 23rd prime minister at a grand public ceremony here.
While 42-year-old Indian Canadian Harjit Sajjan was appointed defence minister, 38-year-old Navdeep Bains got the portfolio of innovation, science and economic development.
Another Sikh, Amarjeet Sohi, who is not turbaned, has been sworn in as minister for infrastructure. A young Sikh woman, Bardish Chagger, who is a first-time MP, has been sworn in as minister for small business and tourism.
Navdeep Bains, who played a key role in Trudeau’s election as the Liberal Party leader in 2013, has been awarded with the important cabinet berth.
Bains, who became MP for the third time last month by winning from Mississauga-Brampton, previously served as parliamentary secretary to the prime minister in 2005 when he was MP from 2004 till 2011 when he lost.
Considered very suave, Bains has been a distinguished visiting professor at Ted Rogers School of Management at Ryerson University in Toronto till now.
India-born first-time Sikh MP Harjit Sajjan is Canada’s new defence minister.
A decorated police and army official, Sajjan has been the first Sikh to command a Canadian regiment, called the Duke of Connaught’s Own which is a reserve regiment based in British Columbia province.
A father of two, the 45-year-old Sajjan was with the Vancouver Police Department for 11 years and served as a detective for the gang crime unit.
Amarjeet Sohi was born in India in 1964, and immigrated to Edmonton in 1981. He has lived in southeast Edmonton since then, and is married with one daughter. Prior to his election to City Council, Sohi worked for the Edmonton Transit System as a bus driver.
He was previously a member of the Edmonton City Council representing Ward 12, gaining his seat in the 2007 city of Edmonton election after finishing 4th place in the previous election, narrowly beating out strong community advocate Chinwe Okelu following the retirement of Terry Cavanagh.
Bardish Chagger’s parents immigrated to Waterloo from India in the 1970s.
Her father Goji was active in Liberal Party politics and an admirer of Pierre Trudeau, and Chagger’s first involvement in politics came in the 1993 federal election as a 13-year-old volunteer for Andrew Telegdi’s successful campaign in Waterloo.
Chagger volunteered for Justin Trudeau’s 2013 party leadership bid, and subsequently became the Liberal Party’s candidate in the newly-reconstituted Waterloo riding. She took 50% of the vote and defeated two-term Conservative incumbent Peter Braid, who had earlier ousted her former employer Andrew Telegd.