Mark Collins – Let’s Not Be Beastly to an Afghan-Canadian Cabinet Minister

A retired senior Canadian diplomat makes a heart-felt case:

Monsef’s place of birth shouldn’t have ‘serious consequences’
Ferry de Kerckhove is a Former high commissioner of Canada to Pakistan [now a CGAI Fellow]

Many people have expressed sympathy for Maryam Monsef, the federal Minister for Democratic Institutions [official webpage here], since the disclosure that she was born in Iran, rather than in Afghanistan. But there have been criticisms – which I simply can’t fathom – from MPs such as Tony Clement and Michelle Rempel, who talked about “serious consequences” if the minister’s birthplace had not been accurately represented on her refugee and citizenship applications.

Do these people have any idea what region we are talking about? Does Ms. Rempel have any understanding of how volatile, porous and border-inconsequential the region was, where even dates of birth, when registered, between Muslim and Christian countries don’t match up? Does she, and those who chime in with her, realize that many Afghans sought refuge in Iran during both the Soviet occupation and the subsequent civil war culminating in the rise of the vicious Taliban regime?

The Afghan city of Herat (where Ms. Monsef’s parents married and where she believed she was born) and the Iranian city of Mashad (where she was actually born) are historically and geographically close. So Afghans would travel back and forth to Iran in times of duress; although they might have not been warmly welcomed, they were at least in a safer environment than in Afghanistan.

As a former Canadian high commissioner to Pakistan, from 1998 to 2001, I believe Ms. Monsef. Her family’s story is similar to the ones that my wife, who was an immigration officer responsible for refugees at the High Commission, heard many times. By the late 1990s, the city of Peshawar, where I had lived as a child, had mutated into a mini-Kabul, with millions of Afghan refugees, including a number of Taliban fellow travellers. People were travelling at great risk by bus, donkey and on foot for hundreds of kilometres from Afghanistan to Pakistan to try to persuade our immigration office to give them a visa while they waited in UN refugee camps.

My first diplomatic posting was to Iran, and I have a lot of sympathy for the decision of Ms. Monsef’s mother to seek refuge there…

Read on. And this would be ridiculous:

Maryam Monsef could be stripped of her citizenship without a hearing after revealing she was born in Iran

Mark Collins, a prolific Ottawa blogger, is a Fellow at the Canadian Global Affairs Institute; he tweets @Mark3Ds

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