Indian Canadian to Set Right the Embattled Military
Following the recent general elections that the Liberal party won last week, Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has appointed Ms. Anita Anand as the country’s new defence minister.
Before Anita Anand, Canada’s only woman defence minister was former Prime Minister Kim Campbell who held the portfolio for six months from January 4 to June 25 in 1993.
In fact, 54 year-old Anita is the first Hindu Cabinet minister in Canada, where, though, in recent years the influential Indian Diaspora has always been represented in the federal cabinet, most of them being Sikhs from Punjab.
Anita was born in 1967 in Nova Scotia to Indian parents who were both medical professionals. Her mother Saroj D. Ram came from Punjab and father S.V. Anand from Tamil Nadu. Her grandfather, freedom fighter VA Sundaram, worked with Mahatma Gandhi during the freedom struggle. She has tweeted about her grandfather’s association with Gandhi.
“She is a world-class expert in governance with decades of professional experience that she will bring to bear to make sure that the Canadian Armed Forces, the leadership and the operations thereof are worthy of the extraordinary women and men who choose to serve,” Trudeau told reporters after the swearing-in ceremony last week about Anita’s capabilities and potentials.
Anand holds four degrees, including a bachelor’s degree in Political Science and a masters in Law, and has worked as a lawyer, a law professor and researcher. At present, she is on leave as a professor of law at the University of Toronto. She has specialised in corporate and securities law, and regulation of capital markets with a specific focus on corporate governance, enforcement, capital raising techniques and systemic risk, according to a profile on her official website. She worked extensively in the sector prior to her political pivot.
She was elected to Parliament from Oakville in 2019, and rose to prominence as the Minister of Public Services and Procurement. She played an important role in procuring Covid-19 vaccines and other pandemic-related necessities, and charting Canada’s Covid-19 response, along with other key cabinet members.
In fact, she has earned plaudits from all over because despite her lack of a political she, as Trudeau’s procurement minister in the last cabinet , did a great job in securing tens of millions of doses of Covid vaccines.
She is credited with helping amass one of the world’s biggest supplies of shots on behalf of a country with no capacity to manufacture its own. Canada also has one of the world’s highest vaccination rates.
Early in the pandemic, Anand’s efforts helped Canada snap up mountains of masks, syringes and gowns amidst intense international competition. As one of the faces of Canada’s pandemic response, she appeared to be one of Trudeau’s most capable ministers during public briefings on the crisis.
“Like you saw with vaccines, I am determined,” Anand said in French to reporters late Tuesday after taking over as the defence minister. “I work very hard and I am results-oriented. So, these are the qualities that I will bring to this file.”
It is to be noted here that as the procurement minister, Anita had handled the supply of Covid vaccines to Canada from India. She received the first batch of five lakh doses of vaccines from the Pune-based Serum Institute of India.
Similarly, when India was battling its worst Covid crisis in April, Anand had expressed her commitment to helping India with medical equipment.
“We are in touch with India and our High Commissioner in India, Nadir Patel, about a number of options that may be on the table for us to assist,” she was quoted as saying during a press conference in April. “We will stand ready with PPE and ventilators and any items that might be useful for the government of India,” she had added.
It may be noted that Anita had assisted the Air India Inquiry Commission with extensive research – the commission had investigated the bombing of Air India Kanishka Flight 182 on June 23, 1985, that killed all 329 people on board. The bomb that exploded on board the Montreal-Delhi flight was planted by Vancouver-based Khalistanis to avenge the military action at the Golden Temple a year earlier in 1984.
Be that as it may, Anita assumes the charge as the defence minister at a time when senior generals of the Canadian military are facing charges of sexual misconduct and not enough Canadians are inclined to join the armed forces, causing a shortfall of manpower in the military.
Anita says that she will be “reviewing everything,” including past reports on misconduct in the armed forces and the recent independent review of the military justice system.
“I will be asking the department for an analysis of the recommendations that have already been implemented as well as the ones that have not been,” she said. “There’s no one switch that we can turn on to change everything overnight. This is going to take time and, while that may frustrate some, I want to assure everyone that I will put in the necessary work for as long as it takes to get this done.”
In fact, Anand’s lack of military background is seen by many as an advantage as more than the military experience it is the strong leadership that earns respect from the forces.