Canada’s Iranian-born cabinet minister could have citizenship revoked

Canada’s ominously titled “minister of democratic institutions,” Maryam Monsef remains embroiled in a scandal over her life in Iran and Afghanistan before emigrating to Canada in 1996.

The initial narrative on Monsef soon after her election as a federal member of Parliament last October was that she was “born in Afghanistan [in 1985] and raised in the western city of Herat ... [and that] her mother tried to ‘make life work’ while in Iran, but her family wasn't welcome there[.] ... As illegal refugees, she said, they also lived under the constant threat of deportation.”

However, recent investigations have shown she was actually born in Iran in 1984, a fact Monsef now admits, and that her mother hid the truth of her real birthplace (and apparently birth date as well).  Her original story of a very unpleasant life in Iran also appears to conflict with her more recent claims that her family was “technically safe in Iran.”

As well, in late 2015, a journalist for IranWire reported that Monsef “had legal residency” in Iran, which is at odds with Monsef telling the Huffington Post at about the same time that “[a]s illegal refugees [in Iran], they also lived under the constant threat of deportation” and her recent press statement saying that her family “did not hold any status” in Iran.

Calls are growing for a formal public investigation of Monsef.  Media reports continue to accumulate stating that many from her electoral riding had heard over the past few years that she was born in Iran.

It matters when Monsef discovered, or even heard rumors, that her birthplace was Iran rather than Afghanistan.  According to Canadian law, “[s]ubsections 10(1) and 10.1(1) of the Citizenship Act provide that a person’s citizenship or renunciation of citizenship may be revoked if the person obtains, retains, renounces, or resumes citizenship by [1] false representation; [2] fraud; or [3] knowingly concealing material circumstances.”

From what Monsef has said, her mother had deceived her as to Monsef’s actual birthplace (and presumably birth date), meaning Monsef’s mother may have made false representations about her daughter on their immigration applications.  This would presumably be strong evidence that the citizenship of Monsef’s mother should be revoked or other sanctions applied.

But in addition, if Monsef became aware that she was, or possibly could have been, born in Iran, she may have been under an obligation to seek out the truth from her mother and inform immigration authorities that her documentation is inaccurate.  Failing to notify authorities upon becoming aware of the likelihood of false information likely falls under the Citizenship Act provisions for retaining citizenship by knowingly concealing material circumstances.

In other words, if Monsef has known for an extended time, or suspected, that she was born in Iran rather than Afghanistan, a potential violation of the Citizenship Act exists.

However, work is underway in the Canadian Senate by Ratna Omidvar – herself an immigrant from Iran appointed to the Senate in March by Liberal prime minister Justin Trudeau – who is sponsoring legislation that seeks to “do away with a law that allows the government to revoke the citizenship of anyone deemed to have misrepresented themselves.”

Whether or not any such legislation will, in its final form if and when passed by both the Senate and House of Commons, be capable of protecting Monsef from potential proceedings under the Citizenship Act remains to be seen, although any removal of provisions to revoke citizenship for misrepresentation greatly weakens Canadian sovereignty and makes a mockery of the legal immigration process.  All applicants would, in a perverse fashion, be strongly encouraged to lie on their applications to improve the chances of being granted citizenship, which could not later be revoked upon discovery of the falsehoods.

The Liberal Party propaganda machine has been working overtime during the past several days in an attempt to squelch public inquiries about Monsef, but with potential violations of the Citizenship Act by the family of a sitting cabinet member – and possibly even the member herself – senior government officials are nearing the point of no return whereby there is the appearance of attempting to cover up potential illegal activity and even suppress more formal investigations by authorities into the matter.

Over time, perhaps under a future non-Liberal government if needed, some members of Trudeau’s inner circle could find themselves also under investigation for their roles in what is currently unfolding if greater transparency is not forthcoming.

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