Defence Minister Harjit Sajjan gave the keynote address at the Aerospace, Defence & Security Expo at Tradex in Abbotsford on Friday.

‘Why can’t we be like that?’: Defence minister recalls inspiration in Abbotsford sky

Harjit Sajjan picked berries in the Fraser Valley while growing up

Canadian Defence Minister Harjit Sajjan says his rise to prominence can be traced back to his youth picking berries in Abbotsford.

“I’ve been part of Abbotsford, actually, for a very long time, since I was a little kid,” Sajjan told an Aerospace, Defence & Security Expo crowd at Tradex last Friday.

Growing up, he said he would join his mom in picking berries on a farm near Abbotsford International Airport, including during the annual Abbotsford Airshow.

“We used to look up – the airshow used to start – and say, ‘Wow’ as little kids, “Wouldn’t it be wonderful to do something like that?’ and finally say, ‘Why can’t we? Why can’t we be like that?’”

Sajjan said he didn’t have “the right stuff” to become a pilot but he remained inspired nonetheless as he went on to serve in the Canadian Forces and as a police officer, before turning to politics.

The minister shared the anecdote before launching into his keynote address at the annual aerospace industry conference. Sajjan told the assembled crowd his government is committed to working together with industry to foster innovation.

Sajjan touted his ministry’s “Strong, Secure, Engaged” policy, which promises to increase defence spending by 70 per cent over the next 10 years. He spoke about the importance of investing in space, for surveillance satellites, among other initiatives.

Sajjan’s Conservative counterpart, Defence Critic James Bezan, was present for the speech.

On Thursday morning, Bezan criticized the Liberal government during a breakfast meeting.

“If a country is not prepared to defend itself, then it is not prepared to be a country,” he said. “Canada has to have the right programs and the right missions all within a comprehensive security strategy. Unfortunately, the Liberals have failed on all these counts.”


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Defence Minister Harjit Sajjan gave the keynote address at the Aerospace, Defence & Security Expo at Tradex in Abbotsford on Friday.

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