By Umendra Singh
PM Justin Trudeau’s top advisor, Gerald Butts, fresh from having to pay back part of the almost $200,000 in moving allowance that he and a colleague claimed, is trying to pull another fast one.
Butts, who is principal secretary to Justin Trudeau, used social media to make the link between criticism of the Liberal cabinet minister and a campaign that falsely claimed that U.S. President Barack Obama was not born in America.
Butts specifically called out the Globe and Mail on Wednesday evening after it published an editorial about Monsef online. The editorial appeared in Thursday’s newspaper.
He also alluded to race being a factor in the overall questioning and criticism of Monsef that has taken place mostly online.
Not defending anything the Globe and Mail may or may not have done here but Butts is stretching the truth to beyond breaking point by comparing the Monsef birthplace scandal to the American birther issue surrounding President Obama.
In the American birther controversy, several American right wingers, led by one Donald Trump, claimed that Obama was not born in the United States (a constitutional requirement for a presidential candidate) and that he may have been born in Kenya, where his father was from. They persisted with their theory even after Obama produced his birth certificate showing he was born in Hawaii.
In the Monsef birth place scandal, the Minister herself admitted that she was born in Iran and not in Afghanistan as she and her family claimed when they applied for refugee status in Canada in 1996. She claimed that at least one or both her parents were Afghanis and they considered themselves Afghanis but the fact remains she was born in Iran when all her Canadian landed and immigration documents state that she was born in Afghanistan.
Monsef claims her mother never told her until now she was born in Iran although there have been rumours flying around in Southern Ontario political circles for many years that Monsef was actually born in Iran – and not Afghanistan. And wouldn’t a 11 year old Monsef in 1996, or later, know her she was born? She is not very smart if she did not know – but that is to be expected from a federal Liberal. Why is this a big issue ? Well, first of all, there has been online conspiracy theorists claiming that it is far easier to get refugee status in Canada if you are born in Afghanistan instead of Iran – specially in 1996. There appears to be some legitimacy to this theory going by the number of Iranians and Afghanis accepted as refugees in Canada and the time it takes to be accepted in Canada.
Secondly, the Liberal Party and Monsef herself made this a big issue during the lead up to last year’s election by continuously harping on what a great story she was having been born in war torn Afghanistan and coming to Canada as a refugee and becoming a politician. Doesn’t sound the same if Monsef was born in Iran, does it?
Now Butts, Monsef and the federal Liberals are trying to sweep the scandal under the carpet. Fact is, Monsef and her family were granted refugee status and immigration status in Canada based on wrong information – no ifs and butts about it.
That wrong information (either given intentionally, unintentionally or in error) needs to be corrected and that means that Monsef may have to lose her Canadian citizenship and immigration status temporarily and apply all over again. This will lead to her losing her parliamentary seat and cabinet post. That is the law and it should be followed. Would an ordinary refugee without the protection of the federal Liberals be given the same exemption as Butts is apparently asking for Monsef? I very much doubt it.
I am hoping the federal Liberals don’t pull the same stunt as they did with Sheila Copps after the 1993 election. In that election, the Liberals promised to get rid of the GST if elected to the government. Then deputy leader and future deputy PM, Copps even promised to “resign” if the Liberals did not keep their promise. People took this to mean that she would not be part of any Liberal government that kept the GST.
But the Liberals love playing with words and people’s emotions. When the federal Liberals won the election and refused to get rid of the GST, Copps was reminded of her campaign promise. She huddled together with the Liberal strategists and came up with an idea. She resigned her seat from Parliament and immediately sought re-election from the same seat as a Liberal candidate in the by-election. She did not even blush with embarrassment. She was re- elected and was honoured with the post of deputy Prime Minister. She did not actually lose her seat or anything else. The taxpayers lost hundreds of thousands of dollars that cost to hold a by election. Well, the Liberals better not cook up a similar trick this time.
But that is what Butts is trying to do. To deflect from the real issue of Monsef and her family lying about her birth place.
There is no comparison to the American birther issue. And Monef is no Obama. She is someone who tried to cut into the refuge pipeline into Canada by claiming to be born in Afghanistan when in fact she was born in Iran.
No ifs and buts about it. No pun intended.