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Monsef could face consequences, immigration lawyers warn

By Anthony Furey, Postmedia Network

Minister of Democratic Institutions and Peterborough-Kawartha MP Maryam Monsef addresses the crowd during a town hall meeting on electoral reform at the Mount Community Centre on Tuesday, September 6, 2016. (Jessica Nyznik/Peterborough Examiner/Postmedia Network)

Minister of Democratic Institutions and Peterborough-Kawartha MP Maryam Monsef addresses the crowd during a town hall meeting on electoral reform at the Mount Community Centre on Tuesday, September 6, 2016. (Jessica Nyznik/Peterborough Examiner/Postmedia Network)

Canadian immigration lawyers say Democratic Reform Minister Maryam Monsef could suffer consequences if her refugee or citizenship applications included false information.

“It’s extraordinarily serious,” Toronto immigration lawyer Guidy Mamann said. “From a strictly legal point of view – and I’m assuming cabinet ministers want to observe the law – she is a person right now who has citizenship through fraud. It may be intentional or unintentional, but her citizenship in Canada right now is open to attack.”

Peterborough Liberal MP Monsef was previously known as Canada’s first Afghan parliamentarian, having come here from Afghanistan as an 11-year-old refugee in 1996. However, she now says she only recently learned from her mother that she was in fact born in Iran. She reportedly spent time in Iran until the age of nine.

Monsef’s office confirmed her passport incorrectly lists Herat, Afghanistan, as her place of birth but it’s unclear what information was included in her original refugee application.

“If you had false info on your citizenship application you could be subject to having it revoked,” Toronto immigration lawyer Chantal Desloges explained. “It could not go so far as a criminal charge because for her to be charged criminally you’d have to do it knowingly.”

While lawyers the Sun spoke to disagreed on certain specifics, none doubted that a case such as Monsef’s would typically undergo a review.

“There are differences in cases where they probably decide not to proceed when false info is presented for reasons of safety and security. But that’s rare,” says Ottawa immigration lawyer Julie Taub, a former member of the Immigration and Refugee Board.

“The situation is if she was not an MP, if she was not a cabinet minister, if she was just your average Joe, the government would probably seek to vacate her status and once that protection is gone they could go after her citizenship,” Mamann added.

“I think the government is going to be in a hard position because they obviously won’t want to take any action on it but if they don’t, how is that going to look, that she’s getting preferential treatment?” Desloges said.

Conservative leadership candidate Tony Clement has called for an investigation into Monsef’s application process and for her to temporarily step down from her position.

“Please note that neither the minister nor his office comments on cases in general,” Camielle Edwards, press secretary for immigration and refugee minister John McCallum wrote in an email. “This is a practice in place for all cases.”