TORONTO — A Canadian lawmaker touted by Prime Minister Justin Trudeau as Canada’s first Afghan-born cabinet minister said Thursday she recently learned from her mother that she was born in Iran.
Maryam Monsef, the 30-year-old minister of democratic reform, said that because her refugee story resonated with Canadians she is taking the time to clear up misconceptions. She issued a statement following a Globe and Mail story.
“Today, The Globe and Mail published an article outlining that I was in fact born in Mashhad, Iran and not in Herat, Afghanistan — as I was led to believe for my whole life,” Monsef said in the statement.
Monsef and her family came to Canada as refugees in 1996 when she was 11. U.S. President Barack Obama, in an address to Parliament earlier this year, made a point of noting Monsef’s Afghan heritage as a sign of Canada’s inclusiveness.
Monsef said her mother told her she did not think her birthplace mattered as she was born to Afghan parents.
She told the Globe and Mail that she only learned she was born in Iran on Thursday after being approached by the paper.
“In the last few days, my neat and tidy refugee story has proven to be a bit more complicated than I originally thought,” she told the Globe and Mail. “(The Globe’s) inquiry led me to have a conversation with my mom and I have since found, while I am still an Afghan citizen, I was born in a hospital in Iran.”
Earlier this year. Monsef didn’t give a definitive answer when asked if she she was born in Afghanistan.
“I believe I was,” she told CTV television then.
Opposition Conservative lawmaker Michelle Rempel raised questions in tweets about Monsef on Thursday, asking if her country of birth was accurately represented on her refugee application and warning there would be serious consequences if not. Rempel also wondered how it was missed in cabinet vetting and security clearance processes.
A spokeswoman for the prime minister did not respond to messages seeking comment.