Maryam Monsef مریم منصف) (born November 7, 1984) is an Afghan Canadian politician. She was elected to represent the riding of Peterborough—Kawartha as a Liberal member the House of Commons of Canada in 2015. A member of the 29th Canadian Ministry, she is the current Minister for Women and Gender Equality (previously known as the Minister of Status of Women), sworn in on January 10, 2017, and Minister of Rural Economic Development, sworn in on November 20, 2019. She was previously the Minister of International Development, until November 20, 2019, and Minister of Democratic Institutions and President of the Queen's Privy Council for Canada until January 10, 2017.(Persian:
Family and education
Monsef was born at the Imam Reza Hospital in Mashhad, Iran, to Hazara Afghan parents who had fled during the Soviet–Afghan War, and lived with her family there in childhood, together with periods in Herat, Afghanistan, in 1987–1988 and 1993–1996. Because Iran and Afghanistan (before 2000) followed the principle of jus sanguinis in their respective nationality laws, Monsef was born an Afghan citizen. Her father was killed on the Iran–Afghanistan border while travelling in 1988, although it is unknown whether he was killed by bandits or Soviet troops. Her uncle had, years earlier, vanished along with several roommates while attending the University of Kabul, in circumstances suggested to have been connected to anti-communist political activity. The family struggled in Iran because of low economic and social prospects for Afghan migrants, even though they had legal status as "involuntary migrants" (mohajerin) under Iranian rules in effect prior to 1992. In 1996, during their second return to Herat, her mother opted to move the family to Canada, and the resulting journey involved traveling through Iran, Pakistan, and Jordan.
Upon arrival, the family took up residence in Peterborough, where Monsef's uncle already lived. They relied on the support of several charity organizations, including the YMCA and the Salvation Army. Monsef has continued to raise money for humanitarian activities in Afghanistan.
In 2003, Monsef enrolled at Trent University, from which she graduated in 2010 with a Bachelor of Science in Biology and Psychology. After graduation, from 2011 to 2014, she worked in several public sector positions in the Peterborough area.
In 2019, she announced her engagement to former Liberal member of Parliament Matt DeCourcey.
In 2014, Monsef had been offered a job in Afghanistan, but was unable to enter the country because of security concerns. She then went to Iran to work on relief efforts for Afghan refugees, which encouraged her to focus on political endeavours. She returned to Canada, and ran for mayor of Peterborough in 2014, finishing a close second. Later that same year, she was chosen to represent the Liberal Party in the upcoming federal election. She was elected on October 19, 2015, with 43.8% of the vote.
Monsef was appointed as Minister of Democratic Institutions in Justin Trudeau's Cabinet on November 4, 2015. She has variously been referred to as the second- or fourth-youngest minister ever appointed to the Cabinet. According to The Hill Times, Monsef was named President of the Queen's Privy Council in Canada although it was unclear at the time whether she had been sworn into that office. Monsef has described this position as "largely ceremonial." The Parliamentary website subsequently indicated that she had assumed the position on November 4.
Criticism and controversy
Handling of portfolio
On May 10, 2016, Monsef gave notice in the House of Commons of the government's plans for the composition of the Special Committee on Electoral Reform, which was to have ten members—six members of the Liberal Party, three members from the Conservative Party, and one member from the New Democratic Party. This attracted immediate controversy, as the government possessed a majority of the committee seats and thus could theoretically recommend alterations to the electoral system without the support of any other party. As well, the Green Party and the Bloc Québécois objected to their lack of voting representation on the committee, although they were invited to attend meetings.
On June 2, 2016, the Liberal government reversed course, and both Trudeau and Monsef advised that they would support Nathan Cullen's motion for the composition of the committee, which would instead have twelve members—five Liberals, three Conservatives, two New Democrats, and one member from each of the Bloc Québécois and the Green Party.
Place of birth
Monsef has been criticized for stating that she was born in Afghanistan, when in fact she was born in Iran. When this was revealed in September 2016, some commentators pointed out that this could lead to revocation of her Canadian citizenship and potential deportation, while others have criticized the absurdity of the present law or decried the importation of birtherism into Canadian politics. The Trudeau government has regularly revoked citizenship from individuals who had become citizens through fraudulent means – including individuals who came to Canada as children but whose parents had made false claims on their immigration forms. In an interview at that time, former MP Dean Del Mastro said that political workers in the 2014 municipal and 2015 federal campaigns knew she was not born in Afghanistan, but chose not to make an issue of it. Monsef is currently awaiting the results of her request to Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada to update her information.
In October 2016, her office revealed that she had travelled to Iran with pilgrimage visas in an Afghan passport in 2010, 2013 and 2014 in order to visit the Imam Reza shrine in Mashhad. As this type of visa is normally for a single entry to Iran and does not allow a holder to work, her previous admissions that she had crossed over to Afghanistan and back in 2014, together with working with an Iran-based charity at that time, have caught the attention of Iranian authorities. In a 2014 interview in Peterborough, Monsef admitted that she wanted the trip to "remain hush-hush."
|2015 Canadian federal election: Peterborough—Kawartha|
|New Democratic||Dave Nickle||12,437||18.69||-6.19||–|
|Strength in Democracy||Toban Leckie||131||0.20||–||$729.98|
|Total valid votes/Expense limit||66,542||100.0||–||$232,452.91|
|Total rejected ballots||190||0.28||-0.01|
|Source: Elections Canada|
|Candidate||Votes||% of vote|
|Patti S. Peeters||1,564||5.8|
|George "Terry" LeBlanc||202||0.7|