Peter MacKay weds former beauty queen

Defence Minister Peter MacKay has announced his marriage to a former beauty queen who was born in Iran and later represented Canada at a Miss World pageant.

Defence minister marries Iranian-Canadian activist at private ceremony in Mexico

Defence Minister Peter MacKay arrives at Rideau Hall with his now wife, Nazanin Afshin-Jam, in May 2011. MacKay announced the nuptials on his constituency website Wednesday. (Fred Chartrand/Canadian Press)

Defence Minister Peter MacKay has announced his marriage to a former beauty queen who was born in Iran and later represented Canada at a Miss World pageant.

"I am overjoyed to announce Nazanin Afshin-Jam and I married at a private ceremony surrounded by family and loved ones today," MacKay wrote in a posting Wednesday on his constituency website.

"Since coming into my life many of you have met Nazanin on her many visits to Nova Scotia. She is the most important person in my life and over the coming months, Nazanin and I look forward to spending more time at home in Central Nova and sharing our happiness with all of you."

The couple reportedly tied the knot at a private ceremony in Mexico. Friends said MacKay proposed over the summer.

Afshin-Jam, who fled Tehran with her family as a young child, was crowned first runner-up at the 2003 Miss World pageant, and has since been known in Vancouver as a vocal campaigner for human rights issues, having co-founded the organization Stop Child Executions, which tries to draw attention to the young people who are on death row in Iran.

She garnered wide attention and acclaim in 2003 for her successful campaign to stop the killing of Nazanin Mahabad Fatehi, an Iranian teenager who was sentenced to death by stoning for killing one of three men who were trying to rape her and her niece.

MacKay's new wife speaks fluent English, French and Persian, and holds degrees in international relations and political science.

Afshin-Jam also has acted in bit television and film parts, with roles in the Cold Squad TV series and a small credit in the movie sequel Scooby Doo 2: Monsters Unleashed in 2004.

'Canada's Sexiest Male MP' for years

The newylweds reportedly met in 2004 when Afshin-Jam visited Ottawa to speak about human rights abuses.

MacKay, 46, has until now been known as one of Ottawa's most eligible bachelors, having been ranked as "Canada's Sexiest Male MP" by The Hill Times for several years.

Before finally meeting his match in the 32-year-old beauty contestant turned activist, MacKay was previously tied romantically to some high-profile and high-powered women.

MacKay has also been engaged previously to Jana Juginovic, who was a CTV executive, and dated Lisa Michelle Merrithew, daughter of former Mulroney-era cabinet minister Gerald Merrithew.

He also once dated fellow Tory MP Belinda Stronach, although the pair endured a very public split when Stronach dumped him in 2005 to cross the House floor to join Paul Martin's Liberals.

Gossip at one time also linked MacKay to former U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice. But in her recent memoir "No Higher Honor: A Memoir of My Years in Washington," Rice wrote that while she found MacKay charming, there was no truth to rumours they had a fling.

Moore also weds

MacKay wasn't the only cabinet minister to head down the aisle over the holidays.

Heritage Minister James Moore and girlfriend Courtney Payne tied the knot on December 29th in snowy Ottawa.

Payne is a communications staffer in the prime minister's office.

A spokesman for Moore, James Maunder, confirmed his boss also got hitched over the holidays, but declined to comment or give any details, saying it was a private matter for the minister and his new wife to address.

With files from The Canadian Press