After initially refusing to say whether her family was under investigation for inaccurate information on her identity documents, a Liberal cabinet minister now says she isn’t being probed by federal immigration officials.
“As far as I know, when an investigation takes place, folks are notified — that is not the case here,” Democratic Reform Minister Maryam Monsef told reporters in Ottawa Thursday.
In responding to questions about her true country of birth, Monsef twice made the effort to point out that she is just an ordinary Canadian with an identity document issue and is dealing with that issue like anyone else might.
“Just like any other Canadian, when I realized that some corrections needed to be made to some paperwork l went on the immigration website,” she said. “I’m going through that process and I will happily keep you folks updated as I go through it.”
Later Thursday on CBC News Network’s Power Politics Monsef continued to employ the same line of defence, telling host Rosemary Barton, “I’m just as Canadian as you are.”
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The Liberals have proudly touted Monsef’s dramatic and compelling personal story of fleeing Afghanistan as a child refugee only to land in Canada and rise to a position in the cabinet of Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s government.
During his address to Parliament earlier this year, U.S. President Barack Obama mentioned Monsef’s journey as an example of why taking in refugees is important and also of what makes Canada a great country.
“Like the girl who fled Afghanistan by donkey and camel and jet plane, and who remembers being greeting in this country by helping hands and the sound of robins singing,” said Obama in the House.
“And today she serves in this chamber, and in the cabinet, because Canada is her home.”
That narrative, however, suffered a blow in late September when the Globe and Mail confronted Monsef with evidence that while she was an Afghan, she was actually born in Iran.
Monsef said she only learned of her place of birth when she was approached by the newspaper.
When confronted by the CBC in October, Monsef said that she had “been forthright and I will continue to be with this situation. I am working on the matter and will keep you updated.”
But when she was asked if her family was under investigation for misrepresenting her place of birth on her Canadian passport application, she refused to answer, instead saying she was working to fix the situation before walking away from the microphone.
“This is a very personal matter for my family and I assure you the work that needs to be worked on, we are working on,” she said.
The matter of whether Monsef is under investigation is significant, because Canadians who have misrepresented information on their passport applications have, in some cases, had their citizenship revoked.
Some have wondered if Monsef has received special treatment because she is a member of cabinet.
According to immigration lawyer Lorne Waldman, someone whose birthplace has been misrepresented on a passport application, even if it was done accidentally, can face deportation.
Waldman is part of a group that launched a constitutional challenge to a law brought in by the Conservatives that would allow the government to strip the citizenship of someone in Monsef’s situation, without a hearing.
They argued that the courts should impose a moratorium on the practice of stripping citizenship in these cases on the grounds that Bill-C-24 was unconstitutional, because there is no right to appeal a decision made by immigration officials.
That case was lost in Federal Court. Judge Russel Zinn ruled that because each individual can seek a stay, or a temporary suspension, any order to strip citizenship is therefore an “avoidable harm.”
“It may be new in Canadian politics to have somebody like me in this position, but my story is the story of millions of people around the world,” Monsef told Barton. “Just like any other Canadian would, I am, and I will, keep you updated.”