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Anita Anand, Canada's Indian-origin Defence Minister, led vaccine supply from India

Anand was the Canadian representative who received the first batch of five lakh doses of Covid vaccines from the Pune-based Serum Institute of India

October 27, 2021 / 11:14 AM IST
Indian-origin Anita Anand served as Canada's Procurement Minister throughout the COVID-19 pandemic.

Indian-origin Anita Anand served as Canada's Procurement Minister throughout the COVID-19 pandemic.


Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has appointed Indian-origin politician Anita Anand as his defence minister in a cabinet reshuffle a month after returning to power following a snap election.

The 54-year-old Anand replaces Harjit Sajjan who, too, is of Indian origin and had a long stint at the defence ministry but came under fire for his handling of the military sexual misconduct crisis. Sajjan has been named the minister of the international development agency.

“It is my sincere honour to be sworn in today as Minister of National Defence. Thank you @JustinTrudeau for entrusting me with this portfolio,” Anand tweeted.

She, Sajjan and Bardish Chagger were three Indo-Canadian ministers in the dissolved cabinet who emerged victorious in the parliamentary polls in September.

Anand was first elected to parliament in 2019, representing Oakville in Ontario province, and served as the procurement minister throughout the COVID-19 pandemic.

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Anand has a deep background as a corporate lawyer and has worked extensively on corporate governance, which refers specifically to the laws and rules to manage the operations of businesses, news agency PTI quoted Global News as saying.

As the procurement minister, Anand 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.

In February, a video of an opposition MP grilling Anand on whether Canada had reached out to India for Covid vaccines was shared widely online.

In the clip, shadow minister for health Michelle Rempel Garner asked Anand in a video call, “Has the minister or Prime Minister (Justin Trudeau) phoned Prime Minister Modi to ask if we could get vaccines from India?

“I am in regular communication with organisations and countries around the world to secure doses of additional vaccines,” Anand replied.

“Have you phoned Prime Minister Modi?” the opposition leader asked.

“I personally have not phoned Prime Minister Modi and I can’t speak for anyone else in our government,” the Indian-origin minister said.

When the opposition leader asked Anand if she knew whether Trudeau had reached out to India for the vaccine supply, she replied: “I do not know”.

This conversation took place at a time when India was exporting COVID jabs under its Vaccine Maitri initiative, which was put on hold after India was hit by a devastating second wave in March-April.

When India was battling its worst Covid crisis in April, Anand 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. She was asked if Canada would step in to help, Global News reported.

“We will stand ready with PPE and ventilators and any items that might be useful for the government of India,” she said.

Anand was born in Canada to doctor parents. Her mother is from Punjab and her father is 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 also assisted the panel probing the 1985 Air India Kanishka bombing in which 329 people were killed. Kanishka flight 182 from Canada’s Montreal to New Delhi was blown off near Ireland on June 23, 1985, killing all 329 people on board, mostly of Indian origin.

On the 35th year of the bombing last June, Anand tweeted, “The victims of the bombing of Air India 182 and their families are in my thoughts today and always. I am privileged to know some of you and honour the memories of your loved ones with you.”

Anand often attends events organised by India-Canada platforms. In the past, she was on the advisory board of Canada India Foundation, an organisation set up in 2007 to boost India-Canada ties.

(With inputs from PTI)
Shylaja Varma
first published: Oct 27, 2021 10:02 am

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