Maryam Monsef, the federal minister of democratic institutions, says the revelation she was not born in Afghanistan has prompted Canadians to reach out to her with their own stories of complicated family histories and that, despite some “noisemakers” and “unkindness,” the messages she has received have been overwhelmingly supportive.
Monsef publicly acknowledged in September that she was born in Iran, not Afghanistan, as previously believed. The news came after a Globe and Mail reporter inquired about her birthplace, a question that led to Monsef’s mother telling her that she had been born in Iran.
“Over the last month and a bit as I’ve been dealing with family drama,” she said at a forum on electoral reform in Ottawa on Wednesday night, “my social media platforms, my mailboxes, personal and at the office, have been filled with stories from Canadians and people from all over the world who share their family stories with me.
“People who have found out that their grandfather’s name wasn’t his name until after he died, that in fact he came here through the underground railroad and that he assumed his brother’s name, and they only found out after he passed away.
“People who found out that their father wasn’t really their father until a long, long time after he passed away. People who walked into their attics and discovered that their mother or father had a whole other family that they didn’t know about.”
But most of the response, she said, has been accepting and understanding.
“An overwhelming majority of it has been love and kindness and the same sense of inclusion that we experienced when we first came to this country,” she said. “That in this country you can be whoever you want to be and we’re just happy that you’re here and you want to serve your community.”