There are lots of dangerous games.
Hockey. Football. Man.
But I have to say that the most dangerous game is the one that the Toronto Sun is currently playing.
In column after column, Sun writer Candice Malcolm has built an elaborate conspiracy theory whereby Democratic Reform Minister Maryam Monsef has concocted a false personal history to further her career: One where she was born in Afghanistan but moved to Iran, instead of being an Afghan citizen born in Iran.
Since the end of September, Malcolm has written 14 articles going after the minister for her supposed birthplace duplicity. Along the way, Malcolm has picked up a troll army of furious alt-right Twitter denizens who have spun their own version of Donald Trump's unhinged "lock her up" chants: #DeportMonsef.
In her most recent column, "Why the Maryam Monsef case matters," the columnist has gone after myself (a "popular blogger") and CTV correspondent Glen McGregor for keeping our readers in the dark about this superduper important story. She paints herself as a hardened journalist who just wants to report the truth.
OK. Let's start with what we know.
Monsef's original version of events was that she was born in Herat, Afghanistan and that her family frequently travelled back-and-forth across the border. Her father, when she was young, was killed at that Afghan-Iran border. After that, she and her family fled to Iran, where they were unable to work, and then travelled to Pakistan, Jordan, and finally Canada. They arrived here when she was 11.
Thanks to some reporting from the Globe & Mail, we know that Monsef wasn't born in Herat, Afghanistan but instead in Mashhad, Iran.
The drive between the two cities is about 370 kilometres, or four hours and 40 minutes. Monsef's citizenship is still Afghan, as Iran did not offer citizenship to refugees who came across the border in the initial fighting that plagued Afghanistan with the rise of the Taliban in the 1980s.
And so, for sure, Monsef's original story got a crucial detail wrong. She didn't travel to Mashhad as a child to become an Afghan refugee, she was born in Mashhad as an Afghan refugee. There is zero evidence that Monsef, as a pint-sized ne'er-do-well, mistakenly filled out her refugee application herself in 1996. There's nothing to suggest that Monsef would have had a harder time applying for refugee status as an Iranian-born Afghan citizen, either.
Just so we're clear: Monsef didn't become a Canadian citizen because her birthplace was listed as Herat.
Enter Malcolm, the hard-boiled private eye.
"Monsef case raises security concerns," Malcolm wrote in mid-October, where she quotes an anonymous "intelligence source" who basically concludes that "things were missed. And that can happen" and uses that to conclude that national security is at risk as a result, despite even her own anonymous source never claiming such a thing.
On October 21, Malcolm broke the story that Monsef travelled to Iran in 2014. This story adds nothing beyond that. Nevertheless, she writes this same column three more times.
But, finally, on October 31, Malcolm dropped the A-bomb: "A file's been opened on Monsef, sources say" before admitting that the "file" comes from a tip line where a mere half-dozen called in to complain.
"Much like Crime Stoppers, the line allows private citizens to anonymously contact the government and relay information relating to citizenship cases involving false representation, fraud or knowingly concealing material," Malcolm writes.
I encourage everyone to call the line and report me. Hell, maybe I was born on Saint Pierre and Miquelon instead of Cape Breton. I can't wait to find out.
Malcolm has proven exactly nothing about Monsef's nefarious plot to cover up the fact that...uh...someone help me out here—that she is a secret Iranian spy? That she is actually the Lindbergh baby? That she was the one who let the dogs out?
Her entire thesis amounts to the idea that Monsef should have known the truth before it was exposed by the Globe. She writes: "If rumours were spinning around Peterborough about Monsef's life story, and if anonymous tipsters were encouraging journalists to investigate, how is it that Monsef herself was the last to know?"
The reality is that these rumours are being pushed by one or more individuals claiming to be distant relatives of Monsef. This one section of their story turned out to be true, but other claims they've made, sent to VICE, fell apart when put under scrutiny.
Nevertheless, Malcolm has been incredulous that other journalists all won't join her in the witch hunt, here, writing that "far-left commenters from Vice [author's note: lol] and the Toronto Star in comparing Monsef's controversy with the 'birther' movement."
Which, to be fair, is exactly what it is. It's birtherism. It's race-baiting fear-mongering about the scary refugees coming from faraway lands.
But the underpinning of Malcolm's arguments, and the #DeportMonsef campaign, is a law that strips Canadians of their citizenship if it can be proven that they filed misrepresentations on their citizenship application.
There, she's not wrong.
That law—which is not, as many have reported, "Harper-era," and actually goes back much further—is draconian. It can, and has, ordered the deportation of Canadian citizens because their parents made mistakes, or lied, on documents from decades prior.
That law does not give a shit if the falsehoods were minor, or accidental. And the Trudeau government has been more aggressive than any of its predecessors in stripping citizenship for exactly this reason. Courts have, however, applied the law inconsistently.
It is possible that the government could win if it went after Monsef. It could deport her. But that's exactly the problem: that's ridiculous.
Malcolm's point isn't that the minister, who was a child upon coming to Canada, ought not to be punished for a single inaccurate line on her citizenship application. Her point seems to be that Monsef deserves to be investigated to see what else she's been keeping secret from the Canadian public and perhaps even shipped back to Afghanistan.
Exploiting a badly-written law to deport your political opponents is, I think we can all agree, not great.
Nobody can prove that Monsef herself has ever done anything wrong. So maybe, just maybe, we can drop the schtick to have her arrested, strip her citizenship, and sent to a country that she hasn't stepped for in for decades.
And maybe we oughta stop doing that to other Canadians, too.
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