A political PR nightmare

Originally published at

A Globe and Mail inquiry started a firestorm for the Canadian government in September, as the national newspaper suggested that Maryam Monsef, minister of democratic institutions, was born not in Afghanistan, but Iran. Monsef won Peterborough’s MP seat on a platform of being Canada’s first refugee MP.

It has left Trudeau’s government scrambling to answer questions regarding Bill C-24, which allows for a single-employee review board to revoke the citizenship of anyone deemed to have lied on their immigration documents. There has been no official word from the government on whether Monsef will be exempted from this law.

Monsef says that she believed she was born in Herat, Afghanistan, but was actually born in Mashhad, Iran – just 370km separate the two cities. Her family spent time in both places from the time of her birth until the family fled to Canada in 1996. Under Iranian law, despite being born in the country, Monsef has no claim to citizenship. Her parents were Afghan citizens, therefore so was she.

Social media outrage, mostly from Conservative supporters, was swift, with many calling Monsef a liar, denying her claim that her mother never told Monsef of her origins. The Conservatives are also dubious that Monsef’s true birthplace escaped the government’s very thorough vetting process for new government employees.

A good point raised by many Liberals is whether or not the same kind of outrage would be present if Monsef was from a more Westernized country, rather than the war-torn Middle East region that’s under constant scrutiny because of their religion.

Tabatha Southey looks at the issue of birth region in her Globe article “Birtherism comes to Canada with the Maryam Monsef ‘scandal.’”

Southey compares the Monsef situation to the fear-mongering that Donald Trump is pushing in the USA and warns that the Canadian Conservative party is heading in the same direction by making such a big issue out of Monsef’s birthplace snafu.

Monsef has handled herself very well, releasing a written statement after the Globe’s claims to address the situation. It has been a difficult time for all involved, including the government, but especially for the refugee family that has already seen their share of hardships.

(Photo by Clifford Skarstedt Jr. for The Peterborough Examiner, used with permission)