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Maryam Monsef

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Maryam Monsef
مریم منصف
Maryam Monsef, 2016.jpg
Monsef in 2016
Minister for Women and Gender Equality[a]
In office
January 10, 2017 – October 26, 2021
Prime MinisterJustin Trudeau
Preceded byPatty Hajdu
Succeeded byMarci Ien
Minister of Rural Economic Development
In office
November 20, 2019 – October 26, 2021
Prime MinisterJustin Trudeau
Preceded byBernadette Jordan
Succeeded byGudie Hutchings
Minister of International Development
In office
March 1, 2019 – November 20, 2019
Prime MinisterJustin Trudeau
Preceded byMarie-Claude Bibeau
Succeeded byKarina Gould
Minister of Democratic Institutions
In office
November 4, 2015 – February 1, 2017
Prime MinisterJustin Trudeau
Preceded byPierre Poilievre
Succeeded byKarina Gould
President of the Queen's Privy Council for Canada
In office
November 4, 2015 – January 10, 2017
Prime MinisterJustin Trudeau
Preceded byDenis Lebel
Succeeded byKarina Gould
Member of Parliament
for Peterborough—Kawartha
In office
October 19, 2015 – September 20, 2021
Preceded byDean Del Mastro (2014)
Succeeded byMichelle Ferreri
Personal details
Maryam Monsefzadeh[1]

(1984-11-07) November 7, 1984 (age 37)
Mashhad, Iran
Political partyLiberal
Residence(s)Peterborough, Ontario, Canada
Alma materTrent University

Maryam Monsef PC (Persian: مریم منصف) (born Monsefzadeh;[1] November 7, 1984) is an Afghan Canadian former politician. She first was elected to represent the riding of Peterborough—Kawartha as a Liberal member the House of Commons of Canada from 2015[2] and served until October 2021. A member of the 29th Canadian Ministry, she is the former 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.[3] She was previously the Minister of International Development,[4] until November 20, 2019, and Minister of Democratic Institutions and President of the Queen's Privy Council for Canada until January 10, 2017.[5][6] Monsef was defeated in her riding in the 2021 federal election.

Family and education

Monsef was born at the Imam Reza Hospital[b] in Mashhad, Iran,[7] 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.[8] Because Iran and Afghanistan (before 2000)[9] followed the principle of jus sanguinis in their respective nationality laws, Monsef was born an Afghan citizen.[10] 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.[8] 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[11] because of low economic and social prospects for Afghan migrants,[12] even though they had legal status as "involuntary migrants" (mohajerin) under Iranian rules in effect prior to 1992.[13][c] In 1996, during their second return to Herat, her mother opted to move the family to Canada, and the resulting journey involved travelling through Iran, Pakistan, and Jordan.[11]

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.[11] Monsef has continued to raise money for humanitarian activities in Afghanistan.[16]

In 2003, Monsef enrolled at Trent University,[17] from which she graduated in 2010 with a Bachelor of Science in Biology and Psychology.[18] After graduation, from 2011 to 2014, she worked in several public sector positions in the Peterborough area.[d]

In 2019, she announced her engagement to former Liberal member of Parliament Matt DeCourcey.[20]

Political career

In 2014, Monsef had been offered a job in Afghanistan, but was unable to enter the country because of security concerns.[21] She then went to Iran to work on relief efforts for Afghan refugees, which encouraged her to focus on political endeavours.[21]

Municipal politics

When Monsef returned to Canada, Monsef ran for Mayor of Peterborough in 2014, finishing a close second.

Federal politics

Later that same year, she was elected as the Liberal Party candidate in the upcoming federal election.[22] She was elected on October 19, 2015, with 43.8% of the vote.[23]

Cabinet appointments

Monsef was appointed as Minister of Democratic Institutions in Justin Trudeau's Cabinet on November 4, 2015.[24] She has variously been referred to as the second- or fourth-youngest minister ever appointed to the Cabinet.[11][25] 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.[26] Monsef has described this position as "largely ceremonial."[27] The Parliamentary website subsequently indicated that she had assumed the position on November 4.[28]

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.[29] 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.[30]

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.[31]

Following the release of the final report of the Electoral Reform Committee Monsef criticized the Members of the committee stating "On the main question on the hard choices that we had asked the committee to make, the members of the committee took a pass," and "We asked the committee to help answer very difficult questions for us. It did not do that." The remarks were considered inaccurate and offensive to the Members of the Committee.[32] Monsef later apologized for her comments.[33]

In late 2016 the Government contracted Vox Pop Labs to create on online survey for Canadians on electoral reform at a website called[34] The survey was condemned as unscientific and misleading by journalists for allowing unlimited entries from one person and failing to ask direct questions about electoral systems. It was also widely mocked by political observers and electoral reform advocates.[35][36] Conservative M.P. Scott Reid and Green Party Leader Elizabeth May both claimed the survey looked more like an online dating survey.[37]

In early 2017 Monsef was replaced as Democratic Institutions Minister by Karina Gould and the Liberal campaign promise to replace the first-past-the-post electoral system was not pursued further.[38]

Place of birth

Monsef has been criticized for stating that she was born in Afghanistan, when in fact she was born in Iran.[39] When this was revealed in September 2016,[8] some commentators pointed out that this could lead to revocation of her Canadian citizenship and potential deportation,[40] while others have criticized the absurdity of the present law[41] or decried the importation of birtherism into Canadian politics.[42] 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.[43][44] 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.[45] Monsef made a request to Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada to update her information.[46]

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.[47] 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.[48] In a 2014 interview in Peterborough, Monsef admitted that she wanted the trip to "remain hush-hush."[48][49]

Open microphone incident

In November 2020 Monsef accidentally left her microphone on during vote in the House of Commons while participating virtually on Zoom. As result the camera showed her saying "The question they're going to ask me — how much do I make now? Like 250?" As a Cabinet Minister her annual salary at the time as $269,800.00.[50]

Monsef was criticized for the comments as her salary was more than four times the median wage in her riding and yet she was casually discussing her own salary without knowing it to the nearest $20,000.[51] It was unclear what prompted Monsef to make the comment however her office later released a statement claiming "Due to a technical error a private conversation was broadcasted."[52]

Taliban comments

I want to take this opportunity to speak with our brothers, the Taliban. We call on you to ensure the safe and secure passage of any individual in Afghanistan out of the country. We call on you to immediately stop the violence, the genocide, the femicide, the destruction of infrastructure, including heritage buildings

— Maryam Monsef[53]

On August 25, 2021, during a press conference regarding the Taliban overthrow of the democratically elected government of Afghanistan, Monsef sparked controversy after she referred to Taliban militants as her "brothers" while calling on them to allow safe passage for refugees and stop engaging in genocide and femicide.[53][54][55][56] The Canadian government designates the Taliban as a terrorist organization, which has been responsible for the deaths of 158 Canadian soldiers since 2001.[54][57] In response to widespread criticism, Monsef stated that Muslims around the world refer to non-family members as brothers and sisters,[58] and that she "believe[s] deeply that the Taliban are a terrorist organization."[54] Many Farsi speakers and Afghans debunked Monsef's premise on the cultural context of calling the Taliban "brothers", and some have even attributed her defeat in 2021 Canadian election to that comment.[59][60][61]

Electoral record


2021 Canadian federal election
Party Candidate Votes % ±%
Conservative Michelle Ferreri 27,402 39.03 +4.14
Liberal Maryam Monsef 24,664 35.13 –4.12
New Democratic Joy Lachica 13,302 18.94 +1.93
People's Paul Lawton 3,073 4.38 +3.10
Green Chanté White 1,553 2.21 –4.85
Independent Robert M. Bowers 218 0.31 +0.05
Total valid votes 70,212 99.44
Total rejected ballots 395 0.56
Turnout 70,607 70.09 +0.09
Eligible voters 100,735
Conservative gain from Liberal Swing +4.13
Source: Elections Canada[62]
2019 Canadian federal election: Peterborough—Kawartha
Party Candidate Votes % ±% Expenditures
Liberal Maryam Monsef 27,400 39.25 -4.57 $99,034.55
Conservative Michael Skinner 24,357 34.89 -0.17 $97,460.55
New Democratic Candace Shaw 11,872 17.01 -1.68 none listed
Green Andrew MacGregor 4,930 7.06 +4.84 none listed
People's Alexander Murphy 890 1.28 none listed
Independent Robert M. Bowers 180 0.26 $0.00
Stop Climate Change Ken Ranney 172 0.25 $1,666.19
Total valid votes/expense limit 69,801 99.36
Total rejected ballots 448 0.64 +0.35
Turnout 70,249 70.00 -1.61
Eligible voters 100,351
Liberal hold Swing -2.20
Source: Elections Canada[63]
2015 Canadian federal election: Peterborough—Kawartha
Party Candidate Votes % ±% Expenditures
Liberal Maryam Monsef 29,159 43.82 +22.42 $153,380.94
Conservative Michael Skinner 23,335 35.07 -14.60 $160,866.22
New Democratic Dave Nickle 12,437 18.69 -6.19
Green Doug Mason 1,480 2.22 -1.34 $82.52
Strength in Democracy Toban Leckie 131 0.20 $729.98
Total valid votes/Expense limit 66,542 100.0 $232,452.91[64]
Total rejected ballots 190 0.28 -0.01
Turnout 66,732 73.19 +7.88
Eligible voters 91,180
Source: Elections Canada[65][66]


2014 Peterborough municipal election - Mayor of Peterborough[67]
Candidate Votes % of vote
Daryl Bennett 11,210 41.4
Maryam Monsef 9,879 36.5
Alan Wilson 4,052 14.9
Patti S. Peeters 1,564 5.8
George "Terry" LeBlanc 202 0.7
Tom Young 183 0.7
Total 27,090 100.0


  1. ^ Office became known as "Minister of Status of Women" from 2017 to 2018.
  2. ^ part of the Mashhad University of Medical Sciences
  3. ^ subsequently subject to progressive tightening,[14] until replaced by the Amayesh registration scheme in 2003[15]
  4. ^ Immigration Portal Researcher for; Outreach Coordinator for the New Canadians Centre; Outreach Coordinator for the Community Foundation of Greater Peterborough; Community Communications Consultant for the Peterborough Economic Development Commission; and Coordinator of Diversity & International Student Supports/ Community Engagement & Stewardship Officer at Fleming College.[19]


  1. ^ a b Décoste, Rachel (27 September 2016). "How Do You Solve A Problem Like Maryam Monsef?". Huffington Post.
  2. ^ Maryam Monsef wins in Peterborough-Kawartha, Global News, October 20, 2015.
  3. ^ "Who's who in Justin Trudeau's 2019 cabinet". CBC News. 20 November 2019. Retrieved 21 November 2019.
  4. ^ "Trudeau shuffles MacAulay, Monsef, Bibeau to new cabinet roles after Wilson-Raybould's resignation - National |". 1 March 2019. Retrieved 4 March 2019.
  5. ^ Maryam Monsef named to Trudeau cabinet. Peterborough Examiner, November 5, 2015.
  6. ^ "ParlInfo Has Moved".
  7. ^ Malcolm, Candice (4 November 2016). "Trudeau's defence of Monsef gets the facts wrong". Toronto Sun.
  8. ^ a b c Fife, Robert (22 September 2016). "Heralded as Canada's first Afghan-born MP, Maryam Monsef shocked to discover truth of roots". The Globe and Mail.
  9. ^ "Law of Citizenship in Afghanistan". United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees. 6 November 1936. Retrieved 29 September 2016.
  10. ^ "Liberal MP Maryam Monsef, Canada's first Afghan cabinet minister, was actually born in Iran". National Post. 22 September 2016.
  11. ^ a b c d Althia Raj, Maryam Monsef Came To Canada As A Refugee. Now, She's A Cabinet Minister., The Huffington Post, November 4, 2015.
  12. ^ "Afghan citizens in Iran" (PDF). Oslo: Country of Origin Information Centre. 14 March 2011. pp. 5–6.
  13. ^ Unwelcome Guests: Iran's Violation of Afghan Refugee and Migrant Rights (PDF). Human Rights Watch. 2013. p. 32. ISBN 978-1-62313-0770.
  14. ^ HRW 2013, pp. 32–33.
  15. ^ HRW 2013, pp. 34–38.
  16. ^ Monsef becomes Peterborough's first female MP, youngest MP ever elected in riding, The Peterborough Examiner, October 20, 2015.
  17. ^ "US President Gives Shout-out to Trent Alumna in Parliament: Maryam Monsef '03 recognized by President Obama as an example of what's possible when refugees are embraced" (Press release). Peterborough: Trent University. 30 June 2016.
  18. ^ "Maryam Monsef: Biology and Psychology". Trent University. 2010.
  19. ^ Maryam Monsef on LinkedIn
  20. ^ "Liberal Minister Announces Engagement To Defeated MP". HuffPost Canada. 7 November 2019. Retrieved 8 November 2019.
  21. ^ a b Buzzetti, Hélène (16 May 2016). "Du confinement afghan aux lumières parlementaires" [From Afghan confinement to parliamentary lights]. Le Devoir (in French).
  22. ^ Dale Clifford, "Maryam Monsef wins Grit vote, will run to replace Dean Del Mastro", The Peterborough Examiner, May 4, 2015.
  23. ^ Peterborough-Kawartha Election Results, Elections Canada.
  24. ^ "Full list of Justin Trudeau's cabinet". CBC News, November 4, 2015.
  25. ^ Evan Solomon and John Geddes, The Trudeau cabinet: Assessing the picks and challenges ahead, Maclean's, November 4, 2015.
  26. ^ Tim Naumetz (9 November 2015). "Youngest Cabinet minister Monsef also President of Queen's Privy Council". The Hill Times. The youngest woman in Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s Cabinet, who arrived in Canada with her family as a child refugee from Afghanistan 20 years ago, was quietly named President of the Queen’s Privy Council in Canada.
  27. ^ Sarah Frank (12 November 2015). "Peterborough MP Maryam Monsef's schedule filling up as she takes on committee positions".
  28. ^ Parliament of Canada Biography, accessed July 22, 2016.
  29. ^ Order Paper and Notice Paper No. 53, May 11, 2016, Parliament of Canada website, retrieved July 4, 2016.
  30. ^ Althia Raj, Liberals to keep majority on new, all-party electoral reform committee, The Huffington Post, May 11, 2016.
  31. ^ Laura Stone, Liberals agree to give majority to Opposition on electoral reform committee, The Globe & Mail, June 2, 2016.
  32. ^ "Maryam Monsef apologizes multiple times for saying electoral reform committee didn't do their job - National |".
  33. ^ "Maryam Monsef apologizes to electoral reform committee". 2 December 2016.
  34. ^ "Government asks Canadians to take online survey on electoral reform". 5 December 2016.
  35. ^ "New electoral reform tool draws fire online - National |".
  36. ^ "Electoral reform survey sparks online backlash". 5 December 2016.
  37. ^ "'A dating website designed by Fidel Castro': Opposition blasts Liberal electoral reform survey | CBC News".
  38. ^ "Rookie MP Karina Gould to take over troubled democratic reform file".
  39. ^ "Monsef questions not going away". Toronto Sun. 30 September 2016.
  40. ^ Bryden, Joan (27 September 2016). "Maryam Monsef could be stripped of her citizenship without a hearing after revealing she was born in Iran". Canadian Press.
  41. ^ "Maryam Monsef controversy highlights absurd citizenship law: Editorial". The Toronto Star. 28 September 2016.
  42. ^ Southey, Tabatha (30 September 2016). "Birtherism comes to Canada with the Maryam Monsef 'scandal'". The Globe and Mail.
  43. ^ "Number of citizenship revocations for 'misrepresentation' soars under Liberals | CBC News". CBC. Retrieved 17 July 2018.
  44. ^ "MALCOLM: Monsef's papers still aren't in order and the media still hardly cares". Toronto Sun. 28 November 2017. Retrieved 17 July 2018.
  45. ^ Lacey, Mike (22 September 2016). "Del Mastro: I knew the truth about Monsef all along". Peterborough This Week.
  46. ^ "Cabinet minister still waiting on citizenship paperwork after birthplace revelation | CBC News". CBC. Retrieved 15 July 2018.
  47. ^ Malcolm, Candice (27 October 2016). "Monsef travelled to Iran on religious pilgrimage". Toronto Sun.
  48. ^ a b Malcolm, Candice (28 October 2016). "Monsef story makes odd appearance in Iranian news". Toronto Sun.
  49. ^ Monsef, Maryam (6 December 2014). "Episode 1- Maryam Monsef, Carl Oake and Michael Dalton". PTBOCanada Live With Mike Judson! (Interview). Interviewed by Mike Judson. Peterborough.
  50. ^ = Global News}}
  51. ^ "Matt Gurney: Monsef's live mic adventure highlights lack of competent cabinet ministers". National Post.
  52. ^ "'Private conversation' of MP Monsef discussing 250K salary caught on hot mic". 17 November 2020.
  53. ^ a b "Federal minister Monsef says her mention of Taliban as 'our brothers' is a 'cultural reference'". CTVNews. 25 August 2021. Retrieved 12 July 2022.
  54. ^ a b c "Maryam Monsef called the Taliban 'brothers.' Here's what you need to know". Global News. 25 August 2021. Retrieved 26 August 2021.
  55. ^ "Matt Gurney: The Taliban are not 'our brothers' Ms. Monsef". National Post. 25 August 2021. Retrieved 26 August 2021.
  56. ^ "Monsef faces backlash for referring to the Taliban as 'our brothers'". My Broadcasting Corporation. Retrieved 26 August 2021.
  57. ^ "'This has all been for nothing': Veterans and family of those killed in Afghanistan respond to Taliban takeover". CTV News. 17 August 2021. Retrieved 26 August 2021.
  58. ^ "Federal minister Monsef says her mention of Taliban as 'our brothers' is a 'cultural reference'". CTV News. 25 August 2021. Retrieved 26 August 2021.
  59. ^ "SULTANI: Shame on Monsef for calling Taliban 'our brothers'". torontosun. Retrieved 22 September 2021.
  60. ^ "Amir Attaran on Twitter: "No. I am Iranian, and in Farsi one does not customarily call extremists out to kill you "brother". When she did it's abnormal, because "brother" is a sweet thing between dear friends—obviously."". 26 August 2021. Archived from the original on 26 August 2021. Retrieved 22 September 2021. {{cite web}}: External link in |title= (help)
  61. ^ "مریم منصف؛ جنجال 'برادرخواندن طالبان' و از دست رفتن کرسی پارلمان". BBC News فارسی (in Persian). Retrieved 22 September 2021.
  62. ^ "List of confirmed candidates – September 20, 2021 Federal Election". Elections Canada. Retrieved 2 September 2021.
  63. ^ "List of confirmed candidates". Elections Canada. Retrieved 3 October 2019.
  64. ^ "Skinner outspent Monsef on federal election campaign according to new campaign return filings". Peterborough Examiner, March 12, 2016.
  65. ^ Elections Canada – Confirmed candidates for Peterborough—Kawartha, 30 September 2015
  66. ^ Elections Canada – Preliminary Election Expenses Limits for Candidates Archived 2016-03-04 at the Wayback Machine
  67. ^ "2014 Municipal Election Results". City of Peterborough. Archived from the original on 5 October 2016. Retrieved 3 October 2016.

External links

29th Ministry – Cabinet of Justin Trudeau
Cabinet posts (5)
Predecessor Office Successor
Bernadette Jordan Minister of Rural Economic Development
November 20, 2019 – October 26, 2021
Gudie Hutchings
Marie-Claude Bibeau Minister of International Development
March 1, 2019 – November 20, 2019
Karina Gould
Patty Hajdu Minister for Women and Gender Equality
January 10, 2017 – October 26, 2021
Marci Ien
Denis Lebel President of the Queen's Privy Council for Canada
November 4, 2015 – January 10, 2017
Karina Gould
Pierre Poilievre Minister of Democratic Institutions
November 4, 2015 – February 1, 2017
Karina Gould