Maryam Monsef

Justin Trudeau Karina Gould Patty Hajdu

Maryam Monsef
مریم منصف

The Honourable Maryam Monsef.jpg
Maryam Monsef
Minister for Women and Gender Equality
(Minister of Status of Women until 2018)
Assumed office
January 10, 2017
Prime MinisterJustin Trudeau
Preceded byPatty Hajdu
Minister of Rural Economic Development
Assumed office
November 20, 2019
Prime MinisterJustin Trudeau
Preceded byBernadette Jordan
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 the Canadian Parliament
for Peterborough—Kawartha
Assumed office
October 19, 2015
Preceded byDean Del Mastro
Personal details
Maryam Monsefzadeh[1]

(1984-11-07) November 7, 1984 (age 35)
Mashhad, Iran
NationalityAfghan Canadian
Political partyLiberal
ResidencePeterborough, Ontario
Alma materTrent University

Maryam Monsef PC MP (Persian: 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.[3] 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.[4] She was previously the Minister of International Development,[5] until November 20, 2019, and Minister of Democratic Institutions and President of the Queen's Privy Council for Canada until January 10, 2017.[6][7]

Family and education

Monsef was born at the Imam Reza Hospital[a] in Mashhad, Iran,[8] 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.[9] Because Iran and Afghanistan (before 2000)[10] followed the principle of jus sanguinis in their respective nationality laws, Monsef was born an Afghan citizen.[11] 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.[9] 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[12] because of low economic and social prospects for Afghan migrants,[13] even though they had legal status as "involuntary migrants" (mohajerin) under Iranian rules in effect prior to 1992.[14][b] 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.[12]

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.[12] Monsef has continued to raise money for humanitarian activities in Afghanistan.[17]

In 2003, Monsef enrolled at Trent University,[18] from which she graduated in 2010 with a Bachelor of Science in Biology and Psychology.[19] After graduation, from 2011 to 2014, she worked in several public sector positions in the Peterborough area.[c]

In 2019, she announced her engagement to former Liberal member of Parliament Matt DeCourcey.[21]

Political career

In 2014, Monsef had been offered a job in Afghanistan, but was unable to enter the country because of security concerns.[22] She then went to Iran to work on relief efforts for Afghan refugees, which encouraged her to focus on political endeavours.[22] 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.[23] She was elected on October 19, 2015, with 43.8% of the vote.[24]

Monsef was appointed as Minister of Democratic Institutions in Justin Trudeau's Cabinet on November 4, 2015.[25] She has variously been referred to as the second- or fourth-youngest minister ever appointed to the Cabinet.[12][26] 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.[27] Monsef has described this position as "largely ceremonial."[28] The Parliamentary website subsequently indicated that she had assumed the position on November 4.[29]

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.[30] 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.[31]

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.[32]

Place of birth

Monsef has been criticized for stating that she was born in Afghanistan, when in fact she was born in Iran.[33] When this was revealed in September 2016,[9] some commentators pointed out that this could lead to revocation of her Canadian citizenship and potential deportation,[34] while others have criticized the absurdity of the present law[35] or decried the importation of birtherism into Canadian politics.[36] 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.[37][38] 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.[39] Monsef is currently awaiting the results of her request to Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada to update her information.[40]

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.[41] 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.[42] In a 2014 interview in Peterborough, Monsef admitted that she wanted the trip to "remain hush-hush."[42][43]

Electoral record


2019 Canadian federal election
Party Candidate Votes % ±% Expenditures
Liberal Maryam Monsef 27,400 39.2 -4.6
Conservative Michael Skinner 24,096 34.9 -0.2
New Democratic Candace Shaw 11,872 17.0 -1.7
Green Andrew MacGregor 4,930 7.0 +4.8
People's Alexander Murphy 890 1.3
Independent Robert M. Bowers 180 0.3
Stop Climate Change Ken Ranney 172 0.3
Total valid votes/Expense limit 100.0  
Total rejected ballots
Eligible voters
Source: Elections Canada[44]
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[45]
Total rejected ballots 190 0.28 -0.01
Turnout 66,732 73.19 +7.88
Eligible voters 91,180
Source: Elections Canada[46][47]


2014 Peterborough municipal election - Mayor of Peterborough[48]
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. ^ part of the Mashhad University of Medical Sciences
  2. ^ subsequently subject to progressive tightening,[15] until replaced by the Amayesh registration scheme in 2003[16]
  3. ^ 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.[20]


  1. ^ Décoste, Rachel (September 27, 2016). "How Do You Solve A Problem Like Maryam Monsef?". Huffington Post.
  2. ^ Muslim Canadians Who Won in the 2015 Federal Election Muslim Link, October 20, 2015.
  3. ^ Maryam Monsef wins in Peterborough-Kawartha, Global News, October 20, 2015.
  4. ^ "Who's who in Justin Trudeau's 2019 cabinet". CBC News. November 20, 2019. Retrieved 21 November 2019.
  5. ^ "Trudeau shuffles MacAulay, Monsef, Bibeau to new cabinet roles after Wilson-Raybould's resignation - National |". 2019-03-01. Retrieved 2019-03-04.
  6. ^ Maryam Monsef named to Trudeau cabinet. Peterborough Examiner, November 5, 2015.
  7. ^
  8. ^ Malcolm, Candice (November 4, 2016). "Trudeau's defence of Monsef gets the facts wrong". Toronto Sun.
  9. ^ a b c Fife, Robert (September 22, 2016). "Heralded as Canada's first Afghan-born MP, Maryam Monsef shocked to discover truth of roots". The Globe and Mail.
  10. ^ "Law of Citizenship in Afghanistan". United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees. 6 November 1936. Retrieved 29 September 2016.
  11. ^ "Liberal MP Maryam Monsef, Canada's first Afghan cabinet minister, was actually born in Iran". National Post. September 22, 2016.
  12. ^ 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.
  13. ^ "Afghan citizens in Iran" (PDF). Oslo: Country of Origin Information Centre. March 14, 2011. pp. 5–6.
  14. ^ "Unwelcome Guests: Iran's Violation of Afghan Refugee and Migrant Rights" (PDF). Human Rights Watch. 2013. p. 32. ISBN 978-1-62313-0770.
  15. ^ HRW 2013, pp. 32–33.
  16. ^ HRW 2013, pp. 34–38.
  17. ^ Monsef becomes Peterborough's first female MP, youngest MP ever elected in riding, The Peterborough Examiner, October 20, 2015.
  18. ^ "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. June 30, 2016.
  19. ^ "Maryam Monsef: Biology and Psychology". Trent University. 2010.
  20. ^ Maryam Monsef on LinkedIn
  21. ^ "Liberal Minister Announces Engagement To Defeated MP". HuffPost Canada. 2019-11-07. Retrieved 2019-11-08.
  22. ^ a b Buzzetti, Hélène (May 16, 2016). "Du confinement afghan aux lumières parlementaires" [From Afghan confinement to parliamentary lights]. Le Devoir (in French).
  23. ^ Dale Clifford, "Maryam Monsef wins Grit vote, will run to replace Dean Del Mastro", The Peterborough Examiner, May 4, 2015.
  24. ^ Peterborough-Kawartha Election Results, Elections Canada.
  25. ^ "Full list of Justin Trudeau's cabinet". CBC News, November 4, 2015.
  26. ^ Evan Solomon and John Geddes, The Trudeau cabinet: Assessing the picks and challenges ahead, Maclean's, November 4, 2015.
  27. ^ 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.
  28. ^ Sarah Frank (12 November 2015). "Peterborough MP Maryam Monsef's schedule filling up as she takes on committee positions".
  29. ^ Parliament of Canada Biography, accessed July 22, 2016.
  30. ^ Order Paper and Notice Paper No. 53, May 11, 2016, Parliament of Canada website, retrieved July 4, 2016.
  31. ^ Althia Raj, Liberals to keep majority on new, all-party electoral reform committee, The Huffington Post, May 11, 2016.
  32. ^ Laura Stone, Liberals agree to give majority to Opposition on electoral reform committee, The Globe & Mail, June 2, 2016.
  33. ^ "Monsef questions not going away". Toronto Sun. September 30, 2016.
  34. ^ Bryden, Joan (September 27, 2016). "Maryam Monsef could be stripped of her citizenship without a hearing after revealing she was born in Iran". Canadian Press.
  35. ^ "Maryam Monsef controversy highlights absurd citizenship law: Editorial". The Toronto Star. September 28, 2016.
  36. ^ Southey, Tabatha (September 30, 2016). "Birtherism comes to Canada with the Maryam Monsef 'scandal'". The Globe and Mail.
  37. ^ "Number of citizenship revocations for 'misrepresentation' soars under Liberals | CBC News". CBC. Retrieved 2018-07-17.
  38. ^ "MALCOLM: Monsef's papers still aren't in order and the media still hardly cares". Toronto Sun. 2017-11-28. Retrieved 2018-07-17.
  39. ^ Lacey, Mike (September 22, 2016). "Del Mastro: I knew the truth about Monsef all along". Peterborough This Week.
  40. ^ "Cabinet minister still waiting on citizenship paperwork after birthplace revelation | CBC News". CBC. Retrieved 2018-07-15.
  41. ^ Malcolm, Candice (October 27, 2016). "Monsef travelled to Iran on religious pilgrimage". Toronto Sun.
  42. ^ a b Malcolm, Candice (October 28, 2016). "Monsef story makes odd appearance in Iranian news". Toronto Sun.
  43. ^ Monsef, Maryam (December 6, 2014). "Episode 1- Maryam Monsef, Carl Oake and Michael Dalton". PTBOCanada Live With Mike Judson! (Interview). Interviewed by Mike Judson. Peterborough.
  44. ^ "List of confirmed candidates". Elections Canada. Retrieved 3 October 2019.
  45. ^ "Skinner outspent Monsef on federal election campaign according to new campaign return filings". Peterborough Examiner, March 12, 2016.
  46. ^ Elections Canada – Confirmed candidates for Peterborough—Kawartha, 30 September 2015
  47. ^ Elections Canada – Preliminary Election Expenses Limits for Candidates Archived 2016-03-04 at the Wayback Machine
  48. ^ "2014 Municipal Election Results". City of Peterborough. Archived from the original on 2016-10-05. Retrieved 2016-10-03.