Maryam Monsef says Canadians have been supportive since birthplace revelation, despite 'noisemakers'
Minister says others have reached out with their own complicated family histories
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.
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"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."
Monsef said there are "some noisemakers who feel like where I was born is the only thing that matters about me," and that her social media feed "has also been filled with some unkindness."
"It's also taught me that as much as we'd like to believe that that divide and that lack of inclusion does not exist in this country, we still have some more work to do," she said.
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."
She took the opportunity to "thank the people who have reminded me of why I'm doing what I'm doing and all the people who've motivated me to work twice as hard as I was before this all started."